The Appellate Division on Thursday gave Grameenphone fresh time until November 14 to let the court inform how much money the mobile operator could pay to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission out of its Tk 12,579.95 crore in the BTRC’s audit claim.
A six-member bench chaired by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain also adjourned until November 14 hearing in the application filed by the BTRC seeking permission to appeal against the High Court’ temporarily injunction on realisation of GP’s dues by the BTRC.
The apex court said that it would allow no further time on the matter.
GP’s lawyer Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, also a ruling Awami League lawmaker, sought fresh time until January to decide how much money GP could pay to the BTRC.
Taposh said that the BTRC had no ground to claim Tk 12,579.95 crore from GP since it had already adjusted Tk 2,190 crore.
He said that GP agreed to pay Tk 100 crore only after assessment of the dues by a neutral committee following a meeting with the finance minister and the telecommunication secretary on October 3.
Therefore, Tk 12,579.95 crore was a disputed amount, he submitted.
The chief justice then asked GP to deposit an amount to the BTRC and in the case of payment of additional amount then it would be returned to it after assessment.
He said that it was not fair that GP moved the court for non-payment of the dues while it was trying to negotiate with the government over the same matter.
Taposh said that GP as a multinational company would became reluctant to continue business in Bangladesh if the government created pressure over the dues.
The chief justice said, ‘It is easy to do business in this country. When the matter of money arrives, they [companies] come to the court to hold up the money. It is not done that you will do business in this country and will not give money.’
On October 24, the Appellate Division gave GP time until October 31 to inform the court how much money it could pay.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam and Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib appeared for the BTRC.
The BTRC moved the Appellate Division after a bench of Justice AKM Abdul Hakim and Justice Fatema Najib on October 17 issued the two-month injunction on realisation of the dues from GP following a petition filed by GP challenging the order issued by the first joint district judge’s court on August 28.
The first joint district judge’s court in its order had refused to grant the injunction on the realisation of the money.
On April 2, the BTRC served a demand notice on GP after an audit firm, a joint venture of Toha Khan Zaman and Co Chartered Accountants, calculated that GP had not paid Tk 12,579.95 crore to the BTRC and the National Board of Revenue since 1997.
The HC bench had also accepted GP’s appeal for holding a hearing on November 5.
On October 17, the telecom ministry approved a BTRC proposal to appoint administrators to GP and another mobile company, Robi, over non-payment of audit claims.
The BTRC had earlier directed Robi to pay Tk 867.24 crore in audit claim.
The BTRC on September 5 this year issued the show-cause notices to GP and Robi asking them why their licences would not be cancelled for non-payment of the audit claims.
A few days before issuance of the show-cause notices, both the companies filed lawsuits with the district court challenging the legality of the regulator’s moves to recover Tk 13,446 crore in audit claims.
GP, meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday said that the company was concerned with BTRC’s lack of cooperation in complying with the current stay order of High Court.
‘We now urge the BTRC to act in good faith and adhere to the said order [of HC]. We expect the BTRC to take the necessary actions to process and allow the release of our equipment from customs, import equipment for network expansion and to offer products and services to customers,’ it said.
‘We reaffirm our commitment to reaching a transparent and amicable resolution to the disputed BTRC audit claim through a constructive dialogue.’
The HC bench of Justice Mamnoon Rahman and Justice Khizir Hayat recently deferred again to November 5 for passing its order on the Robi’s application seeking an injunction on realisation of Tk 867.24 crore as audit claim by the BTRC from Robi.
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