The ministry of defence (MoD) has justified the scrapping of IMS Vikrant, India’s first aircraft carrier, stating that the ship has completed its operational life and it would be in the best interest of the Navy to dispose it of as its maintenance cost is very high.
The MoD has filed an affidavit before the Bombay High Court in a reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking preservation of IMS Vikrant, which played a significant role in India’s victory against Pakistan in 1971. The PIL sought that the Union government should be restrained from scrapping the ship and it should be converted into a museum.
The affidavit filed by Admiral Shankar Mathur, chief staff officer of the Western Naval Command, reads: “IMS Vikrant’s hull is over 70 years old. It was decommissioned on completion of its operational life. It would be in the best interest of the naval services to dispose of such ships as expeditiously as possible. At a certain stage, ships can no longer be economically refurbished or repaired. Maintenance and berthing of such ships require heavy expenditure of public funds.”
The central ministry has further stated that the Navy has been actively involved in preserving and maintaining IMS Vikrant until now. According to the affidavit, the Navy has spent Rs22 crore for repairs and dry dockings of the ship.
“Considerable amount of expenditure has been incurred in maintaining the ship pending its conversion to a museum as the Maharashtra government had proposed to the defence ministry in 1998,” adds the affidavit.
The MoD has stated that the Maharashtra government has not been of any help in maintenance of the ship. “Since then the state government has neither arranged an alternate berth for the ship nor did they accept the responsibility of safety of the ship. It has also been unable to convert the ship into a museum. The Navy has given their full and active support to the government but the same has not yielded any desired results,” it adds.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice MS Sanklecha has kept the PIL for hearing on January 18.