Within the date, it will have to pay Tk100 crore to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to continue its operations and if it fails, the telecom regulator may cancel its spectrum again.
The court also ordered formation of a special dispute resolution committee to fix in a month the total amount of money the CDMA network operator will pay as dues to the BTRC.
Disposing off a Citycell plea seeking back its spectrum, a four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha on Thursday asked the government to immediately reinstate the spectrum allocation and fixed a fresh deadline.
The BTRC cancelled Citycell's spectrum on October 20 and shut down its offices after it failed repeatedly to pay various fees. Citycell then moved with the apex court seeking its spectrum allocation back on October 24.
Following Supreme Court's order, BTRC's lawyer Khandoker Reja-e-Rabbi said the regulator has already started restoring the spectrum of Citycell.
“As it is a technical issue, it could take some time,” he said.
The BTRC has been saying that the company owes it Tk477.69 crore in spectrum renewal fee, annual licence and spectrum fee, VAT and late fees put together.
But Citycell disagreed over the amount, saying it should be much less since the regulator’s method of determining the amount was flawed.
During Thursday's hearing, Citycell's counsel told the court that in their view, the due amount is Tk216 crore of which they have already paid Tk144 crore in instalments as per a previous court directive. Of the money, Tk14 crore was paid to the National Board of Revenue.
Also Read- BTRC shuts down Citycell
The counsels alleged that the company had not been provided with the promised spectrum allocations for use in Dhaka and elsewhere, for which the demanded spectrum fee should be lower.
The BRTC counsel countered, saying they had reduced the amount to Tk397 crore. But Citycell disagreed with the asking amount.
The court then fixed the second instalment at Tk100 crore to be paid by November 19. It formed a three-member committee headed by Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, comprising one commissioner (spectrum) of the BTRC and its joint secretary to resolve the dispute over the amount.
“We hope the committee will make a decision within a month and it will be considered as final,” the chief justice said while delivering the order.
The court also asked the BTRC and Citycell to pay Tk5 lakh each to remunerate the committee members. Besides, Citycell will pay its daily fees regularly to the BTRC.
Barrister Rokon Uddin Mahmud represented Citycell along with AM Aminuddin and Mostafizur Rahman Khan while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh and Khandoker Reza-e-Rabbi represented the BTRC.
Reja-e-Rabbi later told reporters that during the hearing the court pointed out that in Bangladesh Telecommunication Act 2001 there are no arbitration, appeal or review system if there is any dispute over the fees between the BTRC and any mobile company.
The court asked the BTRC counsels to convey to the Telecommunications Ministry that it should think about taking steps to include such provisions in the law. The counsels told the court that they would advise the ministry over the issue.
Asked why the BTRC had reduced the demanded amount, a counsel said the new figure was already settled and undisputed. It was fixed to remove confusions. At first the figure was fixed upon the rate for 10MHz spectrum which Citycell was allotted.
But as the BTRC could not provide it, the amount was revised for 8.82MHz spectrum.
On the other hand, Mostafizur Rahman Khan said the revised amounts proved that the BTRC's demand was wrong.
“As per our calculation we have already paid Tk144 crore of the total accepted dues of Tk216 crore, and we will have to pay just Tk100 crore more. We hope the money will be adjusted,” he said.