The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday gave Grameenphone (GP) two more weeks to inform how much they can pay of Tk 12,579.95 crore dues as claimed by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
Following a petition filed by GP, the four-member Appellate Division bench, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, fixed November 14 for the next hearing.
The development came after lawyers of the country’s largest mobile phone operator sought two months from the apex court to comply with the order following consultation with its investors.
Advocate AM Amin Uddin and Barrister Fazle Noor Taposh accompanied by Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury, Sharif Bhuiyan and Tanim Hossain Shaon stood for the mobile phone company while Advocate Mahbubey Alam and Khandakar Reza-e-Rakib represented the BTRC.
Mehedi Hasan said, the dues were calculated since 1996 which is illegal. Of the total amount, 23 percent is capital while the rest 77 percent is interest. Besides, GP has already been paid Tk 2,190 crore. Of the BTRC’s total claim, Tk 4,086 crore is related with the NBR.
Meanwhile, at a meeting presided over by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on October 3, it was decided that GP would deposit Tk 100 crore so that the BTRC withdraws its licence cancelation showcase notice and moves for reviewing the audit report.
However, on Wednesday, the minister accused GP and Robi of not cooperating with the authorities to bring an end to the dispute with the BTRC through talks.
Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar also made a similar remark last week. The government had drafted a memorandum of understanding to sign with GP and Robi, but the process stalled after the court asked GP to inform it about the sum it is capable of providing at the moment.
The BTRC claimed Tk 867 crore from Robi after running two separate audits on the operator’s books. A separate hearing on a Robi petition is scheduled for November 3.
On October 17, an HC bench issued a two-month injunction on the BTRC’s move to realise money from GP. The BTRC appealed against the injunction. The Appellate Division is hearing it. The HC order dealt a blow to the telecom regulator, which was all set to appoint administrators at GP and Robi to realise the dues.
In a statement, GP said as the Appellate Division adjourned the hearing until 14 November, the stay order passed by the HC is still in effect. The operator said it expects the telecom regulator to take necessary actions to process and allow the release of equipment from customs, import of equipment for network expansion and offer products and services to customers.
Since July, the telecom regulator has refrained from issuing any kind of approval related to service and maintenance to GP and Robi in order to create pressure on the operators to clear the dues.