High Court issues ad-interim injunction against realization of Grameenphone’s dues
The government has approved the recommendations of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to appoint administrators to mobile phone operators Grameenphone (GP) and Robi to oversee their operations.
The approval came after BTRC on Tuesday sent letters to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications seeking its permission.
Post and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune on Thursday.
"Appointing administrators is the government's decision, and BTRC will execute it," he said, adding that the decision was taken in line with the Telecommunication Act.
BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque told Dhaka Tribune that the government will appoint eminent personalities who will be acceptable to all as administrators of the mobile phone operators.
“Three more technical persons will also be appointed to help the administrators in dealing with legal, engineering and finance related matters,” he said.
On September 5, BTRC sent two show-cause notices to GP and Robi asking why their licences would not be revoked for failure to pay their dues.
In replies, both operators claimed that the notices were invalid as the issue of audit claim was sub judice.
Both GP and Robi, in late August, filed cases with the court challenging the audit claim before BTRC had issued the notices.
After an audit of the operators, BTRC in 2016 claimed Tk12,579.95 crore from Grameenphone, the largest in the country, and Tk867.23 crore from Robi, the second largest, in taxes and late fees accumulated over several years.
Of the total, the principal audit claim from Robi was around Tk315 crore, and around Tk6,385 crore from GP.
On September 18, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal at a meeting with the two mobile operators had announced that the longstanding dispute about the audit claim would be resolved within three weeks.
Earlier in July, BTRC had slashed GP’s bandwidth by 30% and Robi’s by 15% for failing to clear the dues.
But they lifted the block on bandwidth after two weeks, considering the inconvenience it was causing the subscribers.
On July 22, BTRC decided not to give any kind of approval to the operators to roll out new packages or services, or import network equipment to pressure them into clearing their dues.
Injunction on realization of GP’s dues
Meanwhile, the High Court bench of Justice AKM Abdul Hakim and Justice Fatema Najib on Thursday issued an ad-interim injunction for two months against the realization of Tk12,579.95 crore from Grameenphone by BTRC.
The court issued a ruling to three respondents, including BTRC, in this regard.
Advocates AM Aminuddin, Dr Sharif Bhuiyan and Barrister Tanim Hussain Shawon represented GP during the hearing, while Barrister Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib stood for BTRC.
Tanim said the High Court also fixed November 5 for the hearing of the appeal filed by GP.
He said: “We had filed a title suit [civil suit] with the lower court, applying for a temporary injunction over the realization of Grameenphone's dues by BTRC. But the lower court rejected our petition on August 28.”
“Later, we filed an appeal with the High Court against the lower court's order," he added.
The High Court issued the ad-interim injunction for two months so that BTRC does not realise the money from GP and does not harass the mobile operator until the case is disposed of, he said.
Additional reporting by Mizanur Rahman