NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the dismantling of Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat which was decommissioned in March 2017 on a petition filed by a Navi Mumbai-based firm which wants to convert the ship into a maritime museum and a multi-functional adventure centre.
Issuing notices to the Centre and Shree Ram Group of Industries, a ship-breaking firm of Bhavnagar, Gujarat, which had bought the carrier for Rs 38.54 crore in an auction in July last year, a Bench headed by Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde agreed to examine the price at which the ship can be bought by M/s Envitech Marine Consultants Private Limited of Vishnukant Sharma and his wife Rupali.
Rupali Sharma appeared as petitioner-in-person offering Rs 100 crore to the buyer and told the court that she has come in appeal against a Bombay High Court order on November 3 which dismissed the petition after the Defence Ministry submitted that the government is no more concerned with the warship since after the bidder won the auction, the sale process completed in September and the government has received the money.
The ministry asked the petitioner to approach the buyer. It pointed out that the ministry auctioned the carrier since there was no space to keep the 67-year old ship lying unused since 2015 and because no state government agreed to take it.
In its brief order, the Apex Court directed the Shree Ram Group "to maintain status quo with regard to dismantling/breaking of the subject-ship known as INS Viraat, as on date."
TOO LATE: Mukesh Patel, chairman of Shri Ram Group based at Alang in Bhavnagar district, however, said in Ahmedabad that it is too late since "over 40% of the dismantling work has been already completed." His firm began dismantling the carrier at its ship-breaking yard at Alang in December 2020 and now it is impossible to reassemble the parts that have been cut.
"We have already pulled the ship towards the shore and also dismantled some portions of the hull, making it impossible for the ship to remain afloat," he said while pointing out that he is yet to get any order from the Supreme Court and his legal team would submit a reply if a notice is received.
The centaur-class aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, was in service with the Indian Navy for 29 years before being decommissioned in March 2017. In reply to a question in July 2019, the Centre had confirmed the decision to scrap the warship after due consultation with the Indian Navy.
It was the flagship of the Indian Navy until 2013 when another ship INS Vikramaditya was commissioned. The 226-metre long warship was completed and commissioned in 1959 as the Royal Navy's HMS Hermes, and decommissioned in 1984. It was sold to India in 1987.