Grameenphone at a hearing at the Appellate Division on Thursday offered to pay Tk 200 crore out of the Tk 12,580 crore in audit claim to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), while the BTRC demanded payment of half of the dues.
The amount would be adjusted after the settlement of the regulator’s audit claim, a GP lawyer told the Supreme Court yesterday.
The lawyer told the court that the mobile operator moved for a settlement with the BTRC after Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal stepped in as a mediator.
The SC was also told that the regulator’s audit report was “disputed” and so it needed a revision with help from an expert body.
On the other hand, a lawyer for the BTRC told the SC that Grameenphone should clear 50 percent of the Tk 12,580 crore due now. The court said any amount could be adjusted later as the case was possibly going to drag on.
It then set Monday for passing an order on a petition filed by the BTRC, seeking stay on a two-month High Court injunction on the regulator’s move to realise the total dues from Grameenphone, which has the highest number of mobile phone subscribers in the country.
The October 17 HC 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.”
Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, Advocate AM Aminuddin, and Barrister Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury argued for Grameenphone while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib appeared for the BTRC yesterday.
Grameenphone’s lawyers told the SC that the carrier was ready to accept a decision reached at a ministerial meeting, attended by, among others, the telecom and the finance ministers on October 3. They said the meeting decided that GP would deposit Tk 200 crore with the BRTC.
Five proposals were discussed in that meeting, two of these proposals are: the two concerned parties will formulate a committee and GP will pay Tk 100 crore to BTRC within seven days and another Tk 100 crore within 30 days before the commencement of activities of the committee, while Robi will also pay Tk 25 crore within seven days and Tk 25 crore within 30 days.
In his reply, the attorney general talked of sufferings faced by mobile users, including frequent call drops. He also blamed GP for not clearing BRTC dues.
At this, the lawyers for the mobile carriers argued that GP and Robi were supposed to pay the dues following withdrawal of different BTRC “restrictions” on the carriers.
The telecom operator claims that the two top mobile carriers owe the state Tk 13,447 crore in revenue share, taxes, and late fees until 2014, but the carriers said the amount was disputed.
Meanwhile, Grameenphone, in a statement yesterday, said, “We reaffirm our commitment that the way to resolve the audit issue is to continue with the jointly committed transparent process towards an amicable resolution with the prime minister’s ICT advisor and relevant members of the government. Our position before the hon’ble court was that we have been and are still willing to make an adjustable deposit as part of the amicable resolution process in the light of the meeting held on October 3.”
The statement also claimed that the BTRC audit report was incorrect and said any attempt to collect money on the basis of such an audit should stop.