INS Viraat , the Navy’s decomissioned aircraft carrier, has become the “private property” of a ship-breaker who has already torn down 40% of its body, chiefly for scrap, the Supreme Court told a private company, that wants to turn the vessel into a maritime museum-cum-adventure centre.
On February 10, the court had ordered a stay on the process of dismantling the ship at an Alang yard in Gujarat.
The carrier was bought by the Gujarat-based Shree Ram Group, a ship-breaking firm, in a bid. The 67-year-old iconic warship was towed to the breaking yard after over three decades’ service in the Navy.
Envitech Marine Consultants Private Limited, represented by Vishnukant Sharma and Rupali Vishnukant Sharma, had first approached the Bombay High Court with their proposal to reclaim the aircraft carrier and convert it into a museum.
The High Court had asked the government to take a call. But the government had maintained a non-commital tone in the High Court and asked Envitech to approach the Shree Ram Group with a proposal to re-purchase the ship.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan for Shree Ram Group, asked the court to lift the stay order. He described Envitech a “fly-by-night operator”.
“We don't even know who they are... I am losing ₹1.6 crore a month and ₹5 lakh a day because of the stay,” Mr. Dhavan submitted. He said 40% of the warship has already been broken.
To this, the CJI, turning to Ms. Sharma, who was appearing in person in the virtual court hearing, asked, “Why should we continue with the stay? It ( Viraat ) has become their (Shree Ram) property... It is very inequitous to stay now when 40% of the ship is broken... You have come too late.”
Ms. Sharma said warships the world around are used as museums.
“We share your sentiments about warships. But it ( Viraat ) has become their property. They have spent money on it,” Chief Justice Bobde said.
The court scheduled the next hearing on April 12.