High Court yesterday issued a two-month injunction on the BTRC’s move to realise money it says Grameenphone owes the government.
The order came as a blow to the telecom regulator which was all set to appoint administrators at Grameenphone and Robi to run them and realise Tk 13,447 crore it claimed the carriers owed the government in “taxes, revenue shares, and late fees”.
The HC bench of Justice AKM Abdul Hakim and Justice Fatima Nazib yesterday issued the injunction against the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s move to realise nearly Tk 12,580 crore from Grameenphone, the carrier with the largest number of users in Bangladesh.
Grameenphone maintains that the amount claimed by the BTRC is “disputed”.
The HC bench fixed November 5 for hearing Grameenphone’s appeal regarding the matter.
“Everyone has the right to go to the court and the government anticipated this. We have taken preparations to face the legal battle,” Posts and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Daily Star yesterday.
Jabbar went on to say that the government would now take the help of the attorney general’s office, possibly on Sunday, to have the injunction vacated.
The government is ready to appoint the administrators as per the rules of the telecom act, he said.
The minister claimed that his ministry had sent the approval to the BTRC for appointing the administrators.
The Daily Star could not verify if the order reached the regulator as of 5:00pm yesterday.
Earlier, Sharif Bhuiyan, a lawyer for Grameenphone, said the BTRC on April 2 sent a letter demanding Tk 12,579.95 crore from the carrier as “tax, revenue share, and late fees”. He said 27 items in the letter were illogical.
Grameenphone then filed a case with a Dhaka court seeking remedy. It asked the court to direct the BTRC not to realise the money and harass the carrier until the issue was resolved.
The court rejected Grameenphone’s plea.
Grameenphone then moved to the HC seeking a stay on the BTRC realising the money and the court yesterday issued the order in favour of the carrier.
Meanwhile, Robi, the second largest carrier in the country, has also filed a petition with the HC regarding the BTRC trying to realise Tk 867.24 crore from it.
The hearing on its petition might be held next week.
BTRC Chairman Md Jahirul Haque yesterday afternoon said he had no idea about the court order and that they would continue with their work to appoint the administrators until they received the court order.
He said the commission has started the process to appoint a four-member team in each operator where one would act as the chief executive officer. The three others would be legal, engineering, and finance and marketing experts, the BTRC chairman said.
“We will not publish any advertisement ... We will try to find eight people who are capable, honest, and intelligent,” he said.
The BTRC had sought the ministry’s approval for appointing administrators on Tuesday.
After two separate audits between 2015 and 2016, the telecom regulator claimed that Grameenphone and Robi owed the government Tk 13,447 crore.
The carries with over 12 crore active users and 75 percent market share refused to pay claiming the amount was subject to dispute.
Later, the BTRC issued two notices on Grameenphone and Robi asking why their 2G and 3G licences should not be revoked for their failure to pay the “dues”.
The BTRC, terming the operators’ response “unsatisfactory”, moved to appoint administrators.
Hossain Sadat, head of regulatory affairs and acting head of communications at Grameenphone, said, “We would like to reaffirm our commitment to reaching a transparent and amicable resolution to the disputed BTRC audit claim through a constructive dialogue.”