The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to vacate the status quo with regard to scrapping of the first Indian warship IMS Vikrant, which has been auctioned by the ministry of defence (MoD).
The MoD had moved the vacation bench of SC to get the status quo vacated as the ship has already been auctioned to IB Commercial Pvt Ltd for Rs60 crore.
The SC, on May 5, had stayed the scrapping of IMS Vikrant till further hearing during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by activist Kiran Paingarkar seeking preservation of the historical ship, which played a significant role in India's victory against Pakistan in the 1971 war.
A vacation bench of justices BS Chauhan and AK Sikri refused to grant relief to MoD noting that the status quo was granted by a regular court. It has kept the next hearing on reopening of court after vacation.
Paigankar's advocate Shekhar Jagtap opposed the MoD's application saying there was no urgency in the matter.
Although the ship has been auctioned to IB Commercial Pvt Ltd, its physical possession has not been handed over as the ship is still docked at the Mumbai port, Jagtap contended, adding, IB Commercial can't just tow the ship from the port.
Paingarkar had initially approached the Bombay high court in December 2013 through Jagtap seeking that the Centre and MoD be restrained from scrapping the ship.
However, the HC, on January 23, dismissed the PIL observing that the Centre and state government have made several attempts in the past to convert it into a museum but have not succeeded. "Also, looking at the condition of the ship, we don't find that the impugned decision (to scrap Vikrant) is arbitrary," the HC judges had observed.
The MoD has contended that the ship is in a bad condition and that the navy has already spent Rs22 crore for its repairs in addition to the yearly maintenance for the last 17 years.
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 Indian Naval Ship (INS) Vikrant. After it was decommissioned, it was rechristened Indian Museum Ship (IMS) Vikrant.