A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, passed the order on Sunday
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court ordered the largest telecom service provider Grameenphone (GP) to pay Tk2,000 crore to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) within three months, out of the BTRC’s audit claim of Tk12,579 crore.
A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, passed the order on Sunday.
Telecom regulator, BTRC's legal counsel Barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib told media that the court also warned GP, that, the injunction by the High Court on realization of TK12,579 crore may be scraped, if GP fails to make the Tk 20 billion payment - clearing the way for the telecom regulator to take appropriate legal measures against the mobile operator.
“The freeze will be withdrawn if Grameenphone does not pay Tk2,000 crore to BTRC within the next three months,” said lawyer Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury, who represents GP.
Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh accompanied with senior lawyer AM Aminuddin and Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury took part in the hearing for GP, while Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib moved the case for the BTRC.
Following the apex court’s order, GP released a statement that said: "The Hon’ble Appellate Division has delivered the order that the stay granted by the Hon’ble High Court division will sustain, subject to Grameenphone’s payment of Tk 2,000 crore within the next 3 months. We will wait for the written order of the court before we make any further comments".
"We reaffirm our commitment to resolve the audit issue by continuing with the jointly committed transparent process towards an amicable resolution with the ICT Advisor and relevant members of the Government," the statement said.
"The existing stay order remains effective and continues to restrain BTRC from taking actions based on the incorrect audit report." GP release said.
Therefore, we look forward to BTRC to immediately comply with the valid injunction order and not to obstruct GP from proceeding with its planned network expansion and offer products & services to its customers", it also added.
Earlier on November 18, the Supreme Court asked GP not to go for any arbitration or outside court settlement with the government over telecom regulator’s Tk12,579 crore audit claim.
In 2016, BTRC claimed Tk12,579.95 crore from the mobile phone operator in taxes and late fees accumulated over the years after running an audit on the Norway-based company.
BTRC ran its first audit back in 2011 on GP and found financial discrepancies amounting to Tk3,034 crore in the operator's books from its inception in 1996 till March 2011.
GP then disputed the appointment process of the accounting firm, and after a court ruling, BTRC in October 2015 appointed another accounting firm, Toha Khan Zaman & Co, to run a new audit on Grameenphone’s books since its inception in 1996 until June 2015.
Earlier in July, the BTRC slashed GP’s bandwidth temporarily by 30% and on July 22 the telecom regulator decided not to give any types of approval to the mobile operator to roll out new packages or services, or import network equipment to put pressure on it for clearing their dues.