Nepal | April 07, 2020

Supreme Court  blow for Sumargi

Must pay at least Rs 25 cr to NTA by tomorrow or NST may lose licence

Umesh Poudel

Kathmandu, July 30

The Supreme Court has refused to continue a stay order passed by it earlier in a writ petition filed by Nepal Satellite Telecom, which is owned by controversial businessman Ajeya Raj Sumargi. The telecom firm had sought a court order seeking cancellation of the amount that it had to pay to Nepal Telecommunications Authority as licence renewal fee, frequency fee and service expansion fee.

A single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana refused to continue the stay order in favour of NST today. The CJ had summoned both NST and NTA to present their arguments today.

The NTA had forwarded a letter to NST on July 18 asking the telecom service provider to pay the fees related to licence renewal, frequency and service expansion, amounting to nearly Rs 1 billion within 10 days. Sumargi had then moved the apex court seeking cancellation of the amount to be paid to the telecom regulator claiming that Nepal Satellite had been expanding telecommunication service to remote areas of the country.

Purushottam Khanal, the newly-appointed chairman of NTA, said NST had only two more days to pay the dues. “If the company fails to make the payment, we will immediately cancel its licence.”

According to Khanal, though NTA had sent the letter to NST seeking payment of dues on July 18, the telecom firm formally acknowledged the letter only on July 22. “Hence, we have to count the 10-day deadline from July 22.”

Meanwhile, Khanal said that the regulator will give an opportunity to Nepal Satellite to pay at least 25 per cent of the due amount or Rs 250 million by Thursday and the remaining money within the next 15 days. “If NST fails to abide by even this concession, we will immediately revoke its telecom licence.”

Earlier, Nepal Satellite had filed a writ petition on April 24 seeking repeal of revised capital gains tax. Cyprus-based Airbell Services Ltd had bought 75 per cent share of the company for which the government had sought Rs 4.31 billion revised tax from NST.

At the time, a joint bench of justices Sushma Lata Mathema and Manoj Kumar Sharma had refused to continue the stay order, which was earlier issued by Justice Bam Kumar Shrestha that had asked the government to put its decision to collect revised tax from NST on hold.

The division bench of the SC had observed that since a notice of revised tax had already been issued on May 14 and since written replies had already been submitted by the case parties, there was no need to issue an interim order as demanded by the petitioner.


A version of this article appears in print on July 31, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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