In a minor victory to save Indian Museum Ship Vikrant, which played a significant role in India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, a Supreme Court division bench of justices Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen, on Monday, stayed scrapping it till further hearing.
The historical warship was auctioned and sold last month to the highest bidder, IB Commercial Pvt Ltd, for Rs 60 crore.
The apex court has also issued notices to the ministry of defense (MoD), Maharashtra government and the buyer asking them to maintain status quo. IB Commercial, which bought the ship, cannot now tow it from Mumbai port where it is anchored.
The SC was hearing a PIL filed by activist Kiran Paingarkar seeking to save the ship.
Paingarkar had initially approached the Bombay high court in December 2013 through advocate Shekhar Jagtap seeking to restrain the Central government and MoD from scrapping the ship. However, HC dismissed the PIL on January 23, observing that both the central and state governments had made several attempts to convert it into a museum but had failed. "Also, looking at the condition of the ship, we do not find that the impugned decision (to scrap Vikrant) is arbitrary," the judges had observed.
On Monday, advocates Shekhar and Yatin Jagtap argued before the SC that if the state and the central governments desired they could preserve the ship.
The MoD had contended in HC that the ship was in a bad condition and that the Navy had already spent Rs 22 crore for its repairs in addition to a yearly maintenance since the last 17 years.
Rear Admiral Shankar S. Mathur, chief staff officer (Personal and Administration), HQ, Western Naval Command, had filed an affidavit before HC stating that the ship was in "deteriorated condition which presents an eminent safety hazard". The affidavit added: "It would be hazardous even to tow the ship to a dry dock and to carry out extensive repairs; the only viable option is to scrap the de-commissioned ship."
IMS Vikrant contains 15,000 tonnes of steel. It was de-commissioned in 1997 and then converted into a museum. Since then the Navy has been spending on its maintenance. "The annual cost of manning and maintaining it works out to Rs.2.5 crore at the 2002 rates and over Rs 5 crore at the current rate," MoD had said before the HC.
The ship was first commissioned in the British navy in 1945 as HMS Hercules. India bought it in January 1957 and renamed it INS Vikrant.
Source: dna india. 6 May 2014