The last hope for saving Indian Museum Ship Vikrant, which played a significant role in India’s victory in 1971 war against Pakistan, was lost with the Bombay high court dismissing a public interest litigation seeking its preservation.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice MS Sanklecha dismissed the PIL filed by activist Kiran Paingarkar, observing that the central and the state governments have made several attempts to preserve it as a museum but have not succeeded. “Looking at the ship’s condition, we don’t find that the impugned decision (to scrap Vikrant) is arbitrary,” the judges said.
Paingarkar had filed a PIL in December 2013 through advocate Shekhar Jagtap seeking the central government and the Ministry of Defence be restrained from scrapping the ship.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had issued tenders in November, inviting bids for scrapping IMS Vikrant. The ship was de-commissioned in 1997. It was then converted into a museum. Since then, the navy has been spending for its maintenance.
Additional solicitor general Kevic Setalvad along with counsels for MoD, Dhiren Shah and Som Sinha, argued that the ship is in bad condition and that the navy has already spent Rs22 crore for its repairs in addition to yearly maintenance for the last 17 years.
The additional affidavit was filed by rear admiral Shankar S Mathur, working as chief staff officer (personal and administration), HQ, Western Naval Command, says: “It would be hazardous even to tow the ship to a dry dock and carry out extensive repairs and the only viable option is to scrap the de-commissioned ship.”
“The annual cost of manning and maintaining the ship works out to Rs2.5 crore at the 2002 rates and more than Rs5 crore at the current rate and this includes pay & allowances to sailors and officers on board, water, electricity provisions and paint, excluding berthing charges,” states the affidavit.
Jagtap countered the cost saying that if the state and the central governments wanted, then they could preserve it.
The chief justice said in a lighter vein: “We can’t compel them (government). They have other plans like the statute in Arabian Sea. It is a matter of their (government’s) priority whether they want to save the warship or have a statue.”
The ship was first commissioned in the British Navy in 1945 as HMS Hercules. India purchased it from the UK in January 1957 and renamed it as Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant. The bids now will be opened on January 29. The reserved price for the ship is Rs3.10 crore and is made of 15,000 tonnes of steel.