The Supreme Court yesterday directed Grameenphone to pay Tk 2,000 crore, around 10 times higher than what the carrier was willing to pay as adjustable deposit, to the telecom regulator.
Whether the sum would be considered a deposit or an advance payment was unclear.
The SC also ordered the leading mobile operator to pay the amount within the next three months. Failure to do so could result in Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) taking measures -- including appointing administrators -- against Grameenphone.
Earlier on November 14, Grameenphone agreed to pay BTRC a sum of Tk 200 crore against the regulator’s audit claim of 12,580 crore. This was in line with an out of court settlement between the two.
The apex court, however, rejected the settlement and issued the fresh order yesterday.
The SC also said that if the Tk 2,000 crore was not paid in three months, it would stay the High Court order which issued an injunction on BTRC’s move to realise the total sum, Barrister Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury, a lawyer for Grameenphone, told The Daily Star.
A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order following a petition filed by BTRC seeking a stay on the HC order passed on October 18.
Meanwhile, BTRC’s lawyer Barrister Khandakar Reza-E Raquib told journalists that the Tk 2,000 crore was an advance payment.
Sharif Bhuiyan, a lawyer for Grameenphone, however, told The Daily Star, it was an adjustable deposit, adding, “We can confirm what the court actually means [only] after getting the written order.”
Raquib, counsellor for the BTRC, said the issue would be settled in the Dhaka court where Grameenphoned had filed a petition for the injunction on August 26 after the sum was paid.
After yesterday’s order, Grameenphone in a statement said they would wait for the certified copy of the order to finalise the next course of action.
“We reaffirm our commitment to resolve the audit issue by continuing with the jointly committed transparent process towards an amicable resolution with the Prime Minister’s ICT advisor and relevant members of the government.”
Grameenphone also said, “The existing stay order remains effective and continues to restrain BTRC from taking actions based on the incorrect audit report. Therefore, we look forward to BTRC to immediately comply with the valid injunction order and not to obstruct Grameenphone from proceeding with its planned network expansion and offer products and services to its customers.”
The telecom regulator claims two top mobile carriers owe the state Tk 13,447 crore in revenue share, taxes, and late fees until 2014, but the carriers say the amount was disputed.
Earlier, the telecom regulator separately audited Grameenphone and Robi from their inception until December 2014 and claimed Tk 12,579.95 crore from Grameenphone and Tk 867.24 crore from Robi.
Robi later filed a case on August 25 in a Dhaka court and also sought permanent injunctions on the claim. Robi later moved to the HC to get an injunction as the lower court had denied to issue it.
On September, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal intervened in the matter and took the initiative to settle it out of court. It was proposed that Grameenphone will have to deposit Tk 200 crore and Robi Tk 50 crore to review the audit report.
Later in October, in another initiative by the Prime Minister’s ICT affair advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy asked both parties to settle the matter amicably out of the court.