The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected outright a Grameenphone plea that had sought a six-month time to pay Tk575 crore out of Tk2000 crore to the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) in instalments.
The full bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, also directed the country's leading mobile operator to pay Tk1,000 crore by Monday.
The apex court fixed the same day to hear further and issue an order on the matter.
The latest development put the telecom giant in a tighter corner.
"If GP fails to pay the ordered amount within Monday, we will proceed with appointing an administrator at the company," said BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque at a press conference hours after the court order.
When contacted, Grameenphone's communication department responded in a text message to The Business Standard, saying, "We have not received the relief we were seeking through a review petition. We have no further comment at the moment."
On November 24 last year, the apex court ordered Grameenphone to pay Tk2,000 crore to the telecom regulator by the next three months.
Two months later, GP filed a review petition with the Appellate Division, seeking to reduce the amount to Tk575 crore and sought an opportunity to pay the amount in 12-month instalments.
In Thursday's hearing, GP lawyers sought six months' time.
How it all began
In April last year, the BTRC demanded that GP pay an unpaid audit claim of Tk12,580 crore, which the company refused to pay questioning the BTRC's audit process.
The telecom operator moved to the lower court, seeking a temporary injunction on the BTRC's claim. But it did not get it. Then, GP moved to the High Court with the same prayer.
In October, a High Court bench issued a two-month injunction against the BTRC move.
Later, the BTRC appealed to the Appellate Division, seeking a stay order on the injunction and won the legal battle.
A stumbling block to business growth
In July last year, the telecom regulator stopped issuing no objection certificates to GP for importing network expansion equipment.
The BTRC also barred it from offering new service packages and importing new SIM cards until the clearance of the audit claim.
All those are dragging GP behind in terms of improving customer experience and coming up with better services, the company officials have repeatedly complained.
A few weeks later, the BTRC also attempted to appoint an administrator in the company, which is believed to be a punishing disruption in the business operation.
The dispute over interest charges
According to the government, GP owes the BTRC Tk8,494 crore and the National Board of Revenue Tk4,086 crore.
Of the BTRC's total claim, the principal amount is Tk2,300 crore and the rest is interests charged over two decades.
Grameenphone's lawyer Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury on Thursday said the BTRC imposed compound interests on GP but charged its competitor Robi simple interests in the same case.