Scrapping blocked ; status quo till next hearing

India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was headed for the scrap yard, got another breather from the Supreme Court on Monday as it blocked the vessel’s journey to ignominy.

“We had made a plea to the apex court to stay the scrapping and give a chance to other state governments to ‘adopt’ it and revive it. Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan has ordered a status quo on the entire matter till the next hearing. The court has also issued notices to the Defence Ministry and other concerned parties,” petitioner-activist Kiran Paigankar told IANS.

The ship was due at the scrapyard on May 17 after it was sold for Rs.60 crore through an e-auction to the Mumbai-based IB Commercials Pvt Ltd.

Through the ‘Save Vikrant Committee’, Mr. Paigankar and other activists last month moved the apex court in a bid to save the vessel which saw action in the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

“Our plea to the Supreme Court was to allow any other State government or port trust in the country to come and take over the ship — since the Maharashtra government was unwilling to save it — and accord her the status of ‘Antiquity’ under the Antiquity & Art Treasures Act, 1972,” Mr. Paigankar explained.

The imposing vessel, commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1961, was decommissioned in 1997 and has been kept anchored at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.

During the hearing of Mr. Paigankar’s public interest litigation in January, the Central government informed the Bombay High Court that the 15,000-tonne ship had completed its operational life.

The Maharashtra government expressed its inability to preserve it as a floating museum owing to financial constraints, following which the Bombay High Court dismissed Mr. Paigankar’s PIL.

The 70-year-old vessel, purchased as HMS Hercules from Britain in 1957 and rechristened as ‘INS Vikrant’, helped enforce a naval blockade of East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — during the 1971 war.

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