The Appellate Division on Monday barred from initiating any process of arbitration by the ICSID over the dispute involving audit claim of Tk 12,579.95 crore by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission against Grameenphone.
A four-judge bench chaired by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain issued the directive after the BTRC informed the court at a hearing that Telenor Asia sent a notice to the Attorney General of Bangladesh on October 30 for initiating arbitration by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes over the dispute.
The ICSID, an international arbitration institution, is part of World Bank Group.
Appearing for the BTRC, attorney general Mahbubey Alam and Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib also submitted Telenor Asia’s arbitration proposal to the court during the brief hearing.
Appearing for GP, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, also a ruling party lawmaker, submitted that he was not aware about the Telenor Asia’s proposal.
He said that the court would be informed about the matter on November 24 after he knew about it from GP.
Taposh also submitted that GP initiated no legal proceedings over the dues out of the country.
Taposh was assisted by lawyer Tanim Hussain Shawon.
The chief justice directed GP and BTRC not to initiate any arbitration out of court since the matter is now pending for hearing with the apex court.
He said that the Appellate Division’s full bench would on November 24 give its decision on the issue.
The apex court would also give its decision on whether or not it would vacate the High Court’s two-month stay on realisation of the dues by the BTRC.
Grameenphone at a hearing in the Appellate Division on November 14 offered payment of Tk 200 crore out of Tk 12,579.95 crore dues to the BTRC while the commission demanded payment of fifty per cent of the dues.
The court then directed GP to deposit to the BTRC some amount of the dues as GP was earning Tk 3,000 crore per year.
The court said that GP could get return of payment of any additional amount.
GP had submitted that the telecom company at a meeting with the finance ministry and the posts, telecommunications and information technology on October 3 had agreed to pay Tk 200 crore to the BTRC on the condition that it would lift all embargo imposed on GP over the audit claim.
The BTRC moved the Appellate Division after the HC 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 the non-payment of audit claims.