Bangladesh mobile operators blow legal bugle

Posted on June 23, 2010  /  8 Comments

The mobile operators will take the government to the court if proposed amendments of the telecoms law are not rationalized. All the six operators’ CEOs have unanimously announced their “last resort” in a historic press conference on Tuesday (June 22, 2010). Even the state-owned TeleTalk’s CEO, who is a civil servant, has joined the camp of his private sector rivals.

This is the first time the usually docile mobile phone industry has threatened legal action against Bangladesh government. Because, the proposed amendments will reshape the regulatory landscape with the quicksand of penalties and landmines of arrest without warrant. WMD of universal service tax will take care of the remaining survivors.

This is, however, not a mobile-specific crisis. Every service provider, which functions under the telecoms law, is equally exposed to this legal extermination process. To be more specific: the builders of “Digital Bangladesh” will be slaughtered by these amendments. Neither the consumers nor the industry has been consulted before structuring these “legal” provisions. Where are the academics, rights groups and trade bodies?


  1. Frankly so far the discussion is only on the top issues but if you get into details of the amendments its quite shocking.

    Believe me, I have never seen a telecom law, where power has been delegated to Regulator to create offences under Regulations. Now as per the proposed amendments, for these unseen “offences”, punishment is 05 years imprisonment and BDT 3 Billion fine (See Section 75).

    Next time if a telecom operator fails to block an “offensive” website like Facebook, its 05 years imprisonment and BDT 3 Billion fine (See Section 66A). By the way, disobeying Regulator’s order has another layer of 05 years imprisonment and BDT 3 Billion fine (See Section 66A (3)). So new Section 66A alone is prescribing 10 years imprisonment and BDT 6 Billion fine in just two subsections for same offence.

  2. By the way, I was in the press conference and can testify that none of the CEOs said that they would challenge these amendments in court. The only statement on this subject was made by CEO of Grameenphone that we would examine the situation, if the law is passed as it is.

  3. @ Aslam

    In that case the Daily Star has misquoted the CEOs. That’s unfair and a clarification from the newspaper is not optional. Because its headline says: “Operators mull court move against telecom law” and the intro of the news is: “Six mobile operators plan to seek judicial intervention as the last resort to preventing the upcoming telecom law, which they say will create a setback for the industry.”

    The magnitude of danger pertaining to the proposed amendments, however, remains unchanged. And you have very correctly elaborated them.

  4. Is this the response with ‘corporate responsibility,’ to our appeal to Dr. Hans Wijesuriya, CEO, Dialog?

    On the 25th December 2008, we submitted an appeal in writing to Dr. Hans Wijesuriya, CEO, of then Dialog Telekomon our concern that Dialog Telekom had started constructing a mobile phone transmission antenna at 94/3 Elie House Road, Mutuwal, Modera, Colombo 15 in the midst of our houses in this dense residential area.

    We expressed our concerns with regard to the possible impact of this intrusion on our lives and those of our loved ones – our children, the elderly and the sick, our neighbours and the environment, which we believe cannot be simply allayed by the standard statement that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that the antenna would cause any significant hazard to our health or environment.

    We referred Dr. Hans Wijesuriya to The Report of the Bio-initiative Working Group, August 2007, that pithily summed up the situation when it states that “often the industry view of allowable risk and proof of harm is most influential, rather than what public health experts would determine is acceptable” (ibid:5) . (For the full report, pl. see )

    We requested Dr. Wijesuriya to exercise his good sense as a citizen willing to act responsibly, towards the concerns of the community and, for the corporate responsibility, by stopping the construction in the midst of our neighbourhood.

    For one and half years to this date, none of us who signed the petition got a response from either Dr. Wijesuriya or his representatives and what we gathered was that the above site constructed by Dialog right in the middle of our neighborhood was not commissioned. Therefore we let the matter lie.

    However, it seems that after about one and half years of silence on our appeal to Dr. Wijesuriya, Dialog company has decided to respond to us. The Dialog company, yesterday, that is on 21st of June 2010, commissioned the cell phone tower in our neighborhood thus starting the transmission of potentially cancer causing radiation in our neighborhood.

    This is the same company that claims to protect children in cyberspace and gifted the ‘Nenasa‘ programme, state-of-the-art Digital Satellite Television based Distance Education Bridge, to the Ministry of Education and Sri Lanka’s student population.

    But Dialog has not been not willing to listen to our appeal to not to erect a cell phone tower that radiates potentiality cancer causing emissions affecting the children in our neighborhood, not to talk about the elders and sick who are the most immediately vulnerable to such radiation.

    Dialog, is this your corporate responsibility?

    Elie House Road neighbours


    1. Chanuka Wattegama

      We do not delete this comment, as it is related to public interest, but in future please be considerate enough to comment in an appropriate post. Otherwise it disturbs the discussion. If anyone wants to respond to this comment, please write to chanuka[at], rather than commenting here. If there is enough interest in this issue, perhaps we may start another thread.

  5. Finally Minister Post and Telecom promised to review the tough law. Appearently better sense is prevailing now.