SC Scrutinizes SBI’s Approval of Foreign Travel LTC for Officers Until 2014
Ten News Network
New Delhi, August 29, 2023: The Supreme Court is currently deliberating over the legality of the State Bank of India’s (SBI) decision to allow its officers to utilize Leave Travel Concession (LTC) for overseas trips until 2014. The apex court, in the midst of its examination, stated that the state’s generosity should not extend to providing LTC for foreign journeys.
The SBI’s practice of granting this privilege came into question, especially as the Sixth Pay Commission had previously dismissed a similar request by government employees in 2008.
A bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Rajesh Bindal expressed their stance on Monday, demanding that the SBI provide substantial reasons for its ongoing provision of LTC for international travel. The hearing emerged as a result of SBI contesting a June 8 ruling by the Madras High Court, which invalidated the bank’s 2014 notification that withdrew the facility for overseas travel under LTC. The legal action was initiated by the All-India State Bank Officers Federation and All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.
N Venkataraman, the Additional Solicitor-General representing the SBI, argued that officers cannot assert the right to LTC for foreign trips, given the commission’s rejection of such a demand.
The court pointed out that the commission’s report was issued in 2008, stating, “You slept over it for six years. Until 2014, you were flagrantly doling out state largesse to your employees for travelling abroad. Why should we not castigate you for this action?”
The bench further highlighted the disregard for regulations and asserted that the provision should have ceased in 2008 itself. “It is like the pot calling the kettle black,” the bench remarked. The court directed the SBI to furnish details about the number of requests entertained for foreign trips.
Gautam Narayan, the advocate representing the officers, revealed that the June 8 order specified that the Union government should have sought input from employees before discontinuing the facility. He also mentioned that recovery procedures were initiated against employees, including retirees.
Pending further orders, the court instructed the bank not to initiate recovery of the amounts. The bench inquired whether the SBI had made any payments towards foreign travel LTC after 2014.
Venkataraman disclosed that in certain individual cases, court orders were obtained, stipulating that payment would be made subject to the condition that if the high court dismissed their petition, the entire sum would need to be refunded.
The officers contended that LTC for foreign visits had been available since 1982, and in 2007, the federation reached an agreement with the banks that led to a revision of eligibility terms and fares under LTC.