U. Sarathchandran, Judicial Member.
1. Applicant is aggrieved by the action of the respondents holding back the amount relating to his LTC claim for the travel he had undertaken with his family during the year 2009 for the block year 2006-2009. The destination he had shown in the application for LTC Advance was Darjeeling. Nevertheless, he and his family members travelled by air to Bagdogra and then proceeded to Gangtok though his destination shown in the application for LTC was Darjeeling. According to him, this has happened due to the lack of comprehension, not only by him but also by the officials who granted LTC, about the North Eastern region. His claim was objected by the 5th respondent Pay & Accounts Officer by Annexure R/7(A) on the ground that Darjeeling is not in the North Eastern region and hence his claim is not admissible. Thereupon he made a request to the Respondent No.2 for changing the destination as Gangtok (Sikkim) stating that this has occurred due to his ignorance and misguiding by the travel agent that Darjeeling is a city in the North Eastern region. Despite several correspondences in this regard, his request was not considered by the respondents. Applicant was superannuated on 30.11.13. On his retirement the amount relating to the LTC was withheld from the retiral benefit. The representations made by the applicant were finally rejected by Annexure A/14 which reads:
BY SPEED POST
Government of India
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Directorate General of CGHS
(CGHS - I Section)
Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi.
The Additional Director,
2/117, Mosque Lane,
Trivandrum - 695 004.
Dr.V.P.Philip, CMO (NFSG) retired on 30.11.2013 - LTC to NER availed in July, 2009 - ex-post facto sanction for change of destination - reg.
I am directed to refer to your letter No.E-25/2007/CGHS/TVM/322 dated 05.02.2014 on the subject cited above and to state that the file relating to LTC to NER availed by Dr. V.P. Philip, CMO (NFSG) was set to the department of Personnel and Training for seeking clarification in this regard. The Department of Personnel and Training has made following observations relating to the violations of rules/guidelines by the officer:-
i. Change in declared place of visit after commencement of the journey without the prior approval of the Controlling officer in violation of Rule 6 of CCS (LTC) Rules.
ii. Availing of Package Tour including Air Fare in violation of DoPT's OM No. 31011/6/2002-Estt.(A) dated 26th March, 2008.
iii. Tickets arranged from an unauthorised Travel Agent in violation of DoE OM No.19024/1/EIV/2005 dated 24th March, 2006.
Besides, inthe absence of proper documents, it is not clear whether the travel was made by the National Carrier only.
2. You are, therefore, requested to take action in this matter in the light of the above points and rule position.
Under Secretary to the Govt. of India
2. Respondents resist the OA by contending that applicant had sought for a change in the destination after undertaking the travel and therefore it is not permissible as per Rule 6 of CCS (LTC) Rules, 1988. Rule 6 reads:
'6. Declaration of place of visit under Leave Travel Concession to any place in India -
When the concession to visit any place in India is proposed to be availed of by a Government servant or any member of the family of such Government servant, the intended place of visit shall be declared by the Government servant in advance to his controlling officer. The declared place of visit may be changed before the commencement of the journey with the approval of his controlling officer but it may not be changed after the commencement of the journey except in exceptional circumstances where it is established that the request for change could not be made before the commencement of the journey owing to circumstances beyond the control of the Govt. servant. This relaxation may be made by the Administrative Ministry/ Department or by the Head of the Department, as the case may be.'
It is also contended by the respondents that he had not availed of air tickets from Air India and the tickets were procured from private travel agents, not in accordance with the instructions contained in Annexure A/15. The respondents further state certain other specific violations in the claim.
1. Obtaining Air Tickets from agent (Space Link Tour's & Travels) other Govt. approved Ashoka Travels, Balmer Lawrie, IRCTC or Air India Office.
2. Indirectly admitted hat he has submitted a fraudulent Air ticket inflated to the LTC 80 fare which covered air travel cost, stay, food and transport cost by taxi of his family of four members.
3. In the initial LTC claim he falsely stated he has visited Darjeeling and on audit objection he changed his place of visit to Gangtok and requested for change of destination after completing the tour which is not admissible as per rules.
Respondents pray for rejecting the OA.
3. Heard both sides. Perused the record.
4. The short question involved in this case is whether the respondents are justified in withholding the amount of LTC for the block year 2006-09 from the retiral benefits of the applicant or not ? It has to be noted that the application for LTC was initially sanctioned and advance amount was granted. Only after the accounts were verified it was noted and informed vide Annexure R/7 (A) that Darjeeling does not come under the North East Region and that the claim for LTC to Darjeeling as North East Region is not permissible. Nevertheless a perusal of Annexure A/1 application for LTC advance shows that applicant has claimed airfare only for Bagdogra and that the amount claimed was sanctioned. Bagdogra is the airport for accessing Darjeeling which is the destination shown in Annexure A/1 application for LTC Advance.
5. According to respondents, applicant travelled by private airlines which was not permissible by Annexure A/15 guidelines. Applicant pointed out that Annexure A/15 circular relating to Air India and purchase of ticket from authorised travel agents came into force only on 16 September, 2010 and hence the same is not applicable for the travel he undertook in 2009 for the block year 2006-09. He produced Annexure A/16 copies of OM dt 23.11.05 and 24.03.06 in this regard and also an OM issued by DoPT a copy of which is marked as A/18.
6. According to applicant, the objection made by the respondent No.5 in A/7 was subsequently added on with other objections at the instance of respondent No.4 who had some animosity towards him. How ever, this Tribunal is not inclined to enter into the details of the alleged rivalry between R/4 and the Applicant.
7. After hearing both sides and on perusal of the record produced by them this Tribunal is of the opinion that applicant is entitled to claim admissible airfare for the travel undertaken by him and family members from Trivandrum to Bagdogra and is entitled to claim the road transport expenses incurred by him by the permissible means of transport from Bagdogra to Darjeeling and back. He is not entitled to claim anything for his travel to Gangtok as that was not the destination he had shown in the application for LTC advance. As Annexure A/5 Govt. of India instructions were subsequently introduced guidelines regarding LTC, same is not applicable to the LTC claim involved in this case.
8. In the above circumstances respondents are directed to recalculate the LTC claim of the applicant for the block year 2006-09 based on the actual plane fare incurred by the applicant and his family for the travel by private airlines from Trivandrum to Bagdogra and back and also the transport expenses for the applicant and his family from Bagdogra to Gangtok and back by permissible means of conveyance by road. The amount so arrived at
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shall be treated as the LTC claimed by him for that travel. Respondents shall refund the amount withheld by them to the applicant after deducting the excess amount, if any, beyond the actual air fare incurred by the applicant and his family members as per the bill produced for their travel from Trivandrum to Bagdogra and back plus the fair permissible for travel by road from Bagdogra to Darjeeling and back. It is made clear that no claims like food, and hotel expenses shall be allowed. If the LTC claim so calculated is less than the amount retained by the respondents from the pensionary benefits of the applicant, the entire amount withheld shall be refunded to him with 6% interest thereon from the date of his retirement till actual payment. This exercise shall be completed by the respondents within two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. 9. Ordered accordingly. No order as to costs.