New Delhi, Feb 10: The Supreme Court stayed the dismantling of the decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat. The order after a plea was filed by a firm that had proposed to turn the vessel into a museum. The SC issued notices on a private firm’s petition and sought responses from the ministry of defense and Shree Ram Ship Breakers, which bought the iconic ship in an auction last year.
In a last-ditch bid, a private company, Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd, offered to buy INS Viraat from the Shree Ram Group and convert it into a museum. However, the company could not procure a no-objection certificate from the Centre or reach a formal agreement with the shipbreaker.
The Centre had in July 2019 informed the Parliament that the decision to scrap Viraat was taken after due consultation with the Indian Navy.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde agreed to examine the price at which the firm can buy it from Shree Ram Ship Breakers that purchased the ship for Rs. 38.54 crores in the auction conducted by the Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Limited last year. The sale process was completed in September.
In a three-page letter, the ministry wrote on November 27 that taking “factual as well as policy aspects inter alia related to safety and material state of the vessel (whose keel was laid in pre-Independence era) into consideration, the request of the petitioner for grant of NOC (no objection certificate) to convert the status of ex-Viraat cannot be acceded to”.
The aircraft carrier INS Viraat was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987 and decommissioned in 2017. The warship, which is the symbol of India’s rich maritime heritage, is at the ship-breaking yard at Alang on Gujarat coast. It was beached on September 28 at Alang at a formal ceremony attended by Union Minister of State, Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya and Navy officers, after numerous attempts to convert the carrier into a museum failed.
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INS Viraat weighs about 27,800 tonnes and served the British Navy as HMS Hermes from November 1959 to April 1984 and after refurbishment, was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987. The warship was last deployed in February 2016, in the International Fleet Review in Viskhakapatnam. The aircraft carrier sailed under her own power for the last time from Mumbai to Kochi in July 2016. In October 2016, she was towed out of Kochi and returned to Mumbai.