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21 February, 2020 12:33:12 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 February, 2020 07:12:50 PM

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‘No one should consider Bangladesh courts minor’

SC orders GP to deposit Tk 1,000cr by Monday
Staff Reporter, Dhaka
‘No one should consider Bangladesh courts minor’

The country’s highest court yesterday ordered mobile phone operator Grameenphone (GP) to deposit Tk 1,000 crore by Monday out of the Tk 12,579 crore due with the telecoms regulator BTRC. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, in its observation, also said no one should consider the Bangladeshi court as a small court, referring to actions by GP with regards to the recent court orders. Following the order, BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommu­nication Regulatory Commission) said an administrator will be appointed in GP if the mobile operator fails to make payment within the deadline specified by the court (February 24).

Talking to journalists after the court order, BTRC Chairman MD Jahurul Haque said, “We will follow the court’s order. If they (Grameenphone) fail to pay Tk 1,000 crore by Monday, we will appoint an administrator as per the court’s earlier instruction.” Talking to The Independent, Post and Telecommunication Minister Mostafa Jabbar said, “I have updated the Prime minister on the issue today (Thursday) and we must follow the court’s instructions. GP has to pay Tk 1,000 crore by Monday. Otherwise, we will appoint an administrator in GP. So, GP should respect the court order. I think they will pay the money as they are

taking all the profit abroad for the last few years.”  “We have taken all preparation to  appoint an administration,” the minister said in reply to a question.  When contacted, Grameenphone, in a statement, said “We are aware of the development at the Hon’ble Appellate Division. We have not received the relief that we are seeking in our review petition. We have no further comment at the moments”  

The apex court, in its order, also said that GP has to pay the full amount of Tk 2,000 crore, which was earlier fixed by the court on November 24, 2019. The court fixed Monday for delivering its order relating to payment of the remaining amount by GP. A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order after hearing a review petition filed by Grameenphonne seeking review of the court’s earlier order.

On November 24 last year, the apex court had ordered GP to pay Tk. 2,000 crore to BTRC within three months in three installments. If the operator failed to pay the amount within the stipulated time, the High Court injunction against the realisation of Tk 12,579 crore by BTRC would be vacated, the apex court had said. But, the GP authority filed a review petition with the apex court on January 26 this year seeking permission to pay around T. 575 crore in 12 installments.

During yesterday’s proceedings, the apex court said that it would not reduce the full amount of Tk 2000 crore, but the apex court would give more time to GP to pay the remaining amount, if the operator pays Tk 1,000 crore by Monday.

At one stage of the hearing, pointing to steps by Grameenphone, the apex court said that no one should consider the Bangladeshi court as a small court. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court is the highest court of the country. Everyone should pay respect to this court, the Appellate Division said.

Advocate AM Amin Uddin and barrister Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury took part in the hearing on behalf of Grameenphone while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib appeared for BTRC.

Advocate Amin Uddin prayed to the court to allow GP to pay Tk 500 crore by this month (February) and the rest of the amount in equal installments in five months.

The chief justice then said, “If you pay Tk 2,000 crore, then we will consider for extending the time, otherwise not. It is not right if you think that the apex court of Bangladesh is a small court. This is the highest court of the country. We will not reduce the amount in any way.” In reply, Amin Uddin said they needed time till Sunday (February 23) to take a decision on the court’s statement. The chief justice then said there was no need of discussion. “We may pass an order to pay the total amount Tk 2000 crore within one month,” he said.

The GP lawyer then pleaded the court to allow GP at least six months for paying the remaining amount. Later, the apex court fixed Monday for passing its order over the review petition filed by GP. BTRC Chairman, in his comment, said GP knocked every door to evade the regulator’s audit. But they failed to convince anyone, he said.

“I hope GP will pay Tk 1,000 crore on Sunday. As the court has ordered, we cannot accept less than Tk 1,000 crore. After the money is paid, the court will give decision on the next course of action for payment of remaining Tk 1,000 crore. So the ball is in the court’s room” the BTRC chairman told journalist.

BTRC claimed the dues in 27 sectors from the mobile operator but failed to recover the money. Later, BTRC sent a notice to GP threatening to revoke its licence on April 2 last year.

But GP moved the court seeking a temporary injunction on the notice which was turned down on August 28 that year. The mobile operator later filed an appeal with the High Court.

On October 17, the High Court imposed a two-month injunction on the realisation of dues from GP. BTRC on October 23 filed a regular leave to appeal petition with the Appellate Division against the High Court order of issuing injunction upon the realisation of BTRC claim. After hearing the leave petition, the apex court disposed of the matter on November 24, 2019.

Earlier, the telecom regulator separately audited Grameenphone and Robi from their inception until December 2014 and claimed Tk 12,579.95 crore from Grameenphone and Tk 867.24 crore from Robi. Both the operator filed separate cases against the audit.

Later, Robi followed the court’s order and deposited Tk 27.26 crore on January 13, 2020. The payment from Robi came following a High Court order on January 5 that asked the operator to pay Tk 138 crore to the BTRC in five equal installments Grameenphone (GP), the largest mobile phone operator in the country, had 7.64 crore subscribers at the end of 2019. The company reported Tk 3,451 crore in profit in 2019. In 2018, the profit was Tk 3,516 crore while in 2017 it was Tk 2,742 crore. Noweigian Telenor Mobile Communications AS owns 55.8 percent shares of Grameenphone.

JGD

 

 

 

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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