The Centre on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court asking it to recall its earlier order staying the scrapping of decommissioned warship INS Vikrant. The Centre contended that the "continuation of the ship at the present state is not safe any longer." The court declined to fix an early hearing date, saying "there is no urgency in the case".
The warship, which played a significant role in India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, was auctioned and sold last month to the highest bidder, IB Commercial Pvt Ltd, for Rs 60 crore. But the apex court had, on May 5, stayed the government's decision to dispose of the ship as scrap and sought the defence ministry and Maharashtra government's reply on a public interest litigation by activist Kiran Paingarkar, who is seeking to save the vessel. The 70-year-old warship contains 15,000 tonnes of steel.
The counsel for the defence ministry told the vacation bench of justices BS Chauhan and AK Sikri that an application has been filed for recalling the court's earlier order and that this bench should prepone the hearing of the main petition filed by a Paingarkar.
Filing an affidavit along with the application, the Centre said, "Seventeen years after its decommissioning, the continuation of the ship in the present state is not considered safe. In the absence of any watertight integrity between the compartments, sections, decks and bulkheads and absence of effective de-watering equipment, any damage to the shell would result in free flooding of the entire ship and possibly sinking of the ship."
Citing that the Navy had already spent Rs 22 crore for its repairs in addition to a yearly maintenance of Rs 2.5 crore, the plea said: "The deteriorated material state of the ship, zero insulation of electric wiring and systems, absence of fire or flood alarm systems and grossly inadequate fire fighting and a damage control facility on board."
INS Vikrant was first commissioned in the British navy in 1945 as HMS Hercules. India bought it in January 1957 and renamed it INS Vikrant. It was de-commissioned in 1997 and then converted into a museum.
Since then the Navy has been spending on its maintenance.
Paingarkar had initially approached the Bombay high court in December 2013 seeking to restrain the governments from scrapping the ship. However, the court 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 have failed.