SC disposes of 13 appeals of telcos
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court yesterday disposed of 13 appeals of mobile phone operators Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink regarding some payments to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), including VAT on spectrum and licence fees.
A five-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique delivered the verdict after holding hearing on the appeals.
The other judges are Justice Md Nuruzzaman, Justice Obaidul Hassan, Justice Borhanuddin and Justice M Enayetur Rahim.
The mobile phone operators filed the writ petitions with the apex court about 10 years back. The full verdict has not been released yet. Attorney General AM Amin Uddin appeared for the state during the hearing.
Khandakar Reza-E-Raquib, representing the BTRC, told The Daily Star that Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink would have to pay around Tk 2,500 crore to the BTRC over licence renewal and spectrum assignment fees and revenue sharing following the SC verdict.
Grameenphone will have to pay around Tk 1,400 crore, Robi Tk 500 crore and Banglalink Tk 600 crore, he said.
But Grameenphone's lawyer, Mustafizur Rahman Khan, said it was not clear whether the mobile phone operators would have to pay any amount to the BTRC.
However, some officials of the operators, wishing anonymity, said the amount would be much lower.
"We need to keep in mind that a number of complex issues are involved in this case. It can only be explained once the full judgement is available," said Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi Axiata.
"However, we will be subject to double taxation if we do not receive a rebate on the amount we pay as spectrum and licence fees. The collection of VAT on spectrum allocation would be decided based on the verdict of this appeal," he said.
According to Alam, Bangladesh will be the very first country in history to levy such tax on spectrum allocation if the judgement gets implemented.
"The tax burden will unfortunately create additional pressure on mobile telecom service providers and ultimately on consumers," he added.