Pay BTRC Tk 1,000cr by Monday, AD asks GP

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 10:20pm on February 20, 2020

The Appellate Division in a fresh directive Thursday asked Grameenphone to pay the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Tk 1,000 crore by Monday to comply with its earlier directive that had directed the mobile operator to pay Tk 2,000 crore in BTRC audit claim within three months.

A seven-member bench headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain issued the fresh directive while hearing an application filed by GP seeking review of the bench’s November 24 order over the BTRC audit claim amounting to Tk 12,579.95 crore.

The bench set Monday for passing order on the review petition.

GP sought six months more to pay the money as the deadline for payment of Tk 2,000 expires on February 23.

The chief justice rebuked GP for not paying the BTRC following the apex court’s directive.

‘It is painful that you think Bangladesh’s court is less important,’ the chief justice said, adding ‘It is the country’s apex court.’

GP informed the court that it had offered the BTRC Tk 500 crore but it refused to take the amount saying that taking money less than Tk 2,000 crore would constitute contempt of the court.

The telecom company requested the court to direct the BTRC to accept Tk 500 crore, which is 25 per cent of its original claim of Tk 2,300 crore.

GP said that 87 per cent of BTRC’s claim would be met if it paid Tk 2,000 crore.

GP said that it started legal battle opposing BTRC’s claim of Tk 2,300 crore.

The court said that GP flouted the directive by not paying Tk 2,000 crore.

The BTRC submitted that the total audit claim could be realised in six months if an administrator was appointed to GP to run the company.

The BTRC was represented by attorney general Mahbubey Alam, additional attorney general Murad Reza and lawyer Khandaker Reza E Raquib while lawyers AM Amin Uddin and Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury appeared for GP.

After Thursday’s court order, BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque at a briefing on the day said that he hoped that the mobile phone operator would comply with the court order.

Unless the money is paid within the deadline, the commission would start taking measures against GP as per law, Jahurul said.

‘As the first step, the commission would appoint administrator,’ the BTRC chairman said.

Meanwhile, the commission has already secured approval from the government high ups to commence a process to start the administrator selection process.

Apart from asking the operator to pay Tk 1,000 crore by Monday, the court also asked the mobile phone operator to appear before it after the payment when the court would outline the ways to resolve the audit issue, he said.

‘We are aware of the development at the Appellate Division. We have not received the relief that we were seeking in our review petition. We have no further comments at the moment,’ GP said in a statement on Thursday.

GP and BTRC have engaged in the second phase of legal battle on audit issue in October last year when the telecom operator filed a writ petition with the High Court following the government’s move to appoint administrator to Grameenphone and Robi to realise audit claims.

Afterwards, the BTRC filed an appeal with the Appellate Division against the HC order.

On November 24 last year, the AD asked GP to pay Tk 2,000 crore in three months.

The operator on January 26 filed a review petition with the AD to allow it to pay Tk 575 crore in twelve monthly instalments.

The first phase of legal battle of GP with the BTRC ended in 2011 when the HC declared illegal the appointment of auditor to GP by the telecom regulator.

On April 2, 2019, the commission based on an audit conducted by Toha Khan Zaman & Co, which was appointed in 2015 as part of the BTRC’s second attempt, claimed the amount from GP.

The BTRC’s claim to GP includes Tk 8,498 crore of the telecom regulator and another Tk 4,086 crore of the National Board of Revenue.

In July, 2018, the commission issued a demand letter to mobile operator Robi claiming Tk 867 crore based on an audit report on the entity’s information system.

Of the claims, Robi paid Tk 55.2 crore in two instalments out of five following a court order to pay Tk 138 crore in advance before the settlement of audit dispute with the government.