The State Bank of India has warned its employees against posting content on social media that is critical of the country's largest lender over its functioning in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a recent letter to chief general managers of all circles, SBI also said action will be taken against employees who take to social media platforms to write messages disparaging the bank, its management and policies, sources said on Friday.
"We have seen a spurt in social media posts pertaining to functioning of the bank's branches and offices... There have been many such posts critical of the bank not closing down operations in context of the COVID-19 outbreak, little appreciating the role of the bank at such a critical time," the sources said, quoting a circular.
The lender has already initiated action against two of its employees based in West Bengal for "offensive" posts against the bank and a senior management official, they said. The move has met with criticism by a large section of SBI employees, who called it an attempt to muzzle free speech and expression.
"Being a citizen of a democratic country, we have a broader right to express our views on social media about the situations that affect our day lives, without divulging details of our organisation or using derogatory language... this circular is an attempt to curb our rights enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution," said an SBI employee, who preferred not to be named.
A senior United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) official told PTI that SBI is the only bank to have come out with such a circular amid the coronavirus crisis.
An official of the All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC) said the state-run lender's circular on social media posts of its employees is "definitely" a breach of their democratic rights.
"Indecent language in social media against banks is not encouraged, but employees are well within rights to flag concerns through their posts," he said.
When contacted, SBI Chief General Manager, Kolkata Circle, Ranjan Kumar Mishra, said the bank has a social media policy in place which every employee is expected to adhere to, failing which action could be initiated.
"Everybody is free to express themselves on social media regarding COVID-19 or any other subject, but if such posts tarnish the image of the bank and is violative of the set code of conduct, then disciplinary action might be taken after investigation," Mishra told PTI.
On reports that some of its employees are placed under suspension over recent social media posts, he said such steps are "regular internal matters of the bank".
Mishra also said SBI has been largely successful in managing customer flow at its branches across the country amid the ongoing lockdown, and help of local authorities is being sought wherever required.
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