SC to GP: Pay Tk1,000cr to BTRC by Monday

46

BTRC chairman says an administrator will be appointed at GP in default

The Appellate Division has ordered private mobile operator Grameenphone (GP) to pay Tk1,000 crore to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) by Monday.

The top court’s full seven-member bench, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, issued the order on Thursday, after hearing a review petition filed by GP.

Advocate AM Amin Uddin and Barrister Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury represented GP during the lengthy hearing, while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Barrister Khandaker Reza-e-Raquib represented the state and BTRC, respectively.

GP’s lawyer Mehedi said they told the court that Tk500 crore will be paid in one month and rest amount will be paid equally in six months. “But the court did not accept it, and ordered [GP] to pay the amount within Monday.”

The court then also fixed Monday for passing its order on the review petition.

After running an audit on GP, BTRC in 2016 had claimed Tk12,579.95 crore from the mobile phone operator in taxes and late fees accumulated over the years.

The dispute about the audit intensified last year and the company faced regulatory punishment, including suspension of service and expansion, for not clearing the audit claim.

On November 24 last year, the Appellate Division had ordered GP to pay Tk2,000 crore out of the Tk12,579.95 crore dues within three months. The deadline will expire on Monday.

The telecom regulator claimed the dues in 27 sectors from GP, but failed to recover the money. Later, BTRC sent a notice to GP threatening to revoke its licence on April 2 last year.

But GP moved the court seeking a temporary injunction on the notice which was turned down on August 28 that year. It later filed an appeal with the High Court.

On October 17, the High Court imposed a two-month injunction on realisation of dues from GP. BTRC later moved the Appellate Division against the order.

Meanwhile, GP in a statement yesterday only said that they did not receive the relief they were seeking in the review petition. “We have no further comments at the moment.”

In another development, BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque told reporters that an administrator will be appointed at GP, if they fail to comply with the apex court’s order.

He also said that the administrator will run the company in a regular manner. “After keeping the operational expenses, the administrator will deposit the surplus amount to the government. He will leave the company after the entire due is paid.”

The BTRC in January last year had initiated a process to appoint an administrator in GP and received the go ahead from the government. Later, GP moved the court and received an stay order on the matter.

A senior BTRC official, requesting anonymity, also said that the government would appoint an eminent personality, acceptable to all, as the administrator. “Three more technical persons will be appointed to help the administrator in dealing with legal, engineering and finance-related matters.”