India's first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant has finally been auctioned to a ship-breaker for Rs.60 crore and an activist Wednesday moved the apex court in a last ditch bid to save the vessel which saw action in the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
It was sold through an auction to Mumbai's IB Commercials Pvt. Ltd., but details are awaited.
Mumbai activist Kiran Paigankar, who had earlier filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court trying to save the ship, said he moved the Supreme Court challenging the auction.
"The matter is likely to come up tomorrow (Thursday). At the hearing, we shall request the apex court to allow any other state government or port trust to come and take over the ship - since the Maharashtra government is unwilling to save it - and accord her the status of 'Antiquity' under the Antiquity and Art Treasure Act, 1972," Paigankar told IANS.
The once-imposing vessel, commissioned by the Indian Navy in 1961, was decommissioned in 1997 and has been kept on anchor at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.
During the hearing of the PIL in January, the central government informed the Bombay High Court that the ship had completed its operational life.
The Maharashtra government expressed its inability to preserve it as a floating museum owing to financial constraints following which the Bombay High Court dismissed Paigankar's PIL.
He said that the move in the apex court is a last attempt to save the 15,000 tonnes steel ship.
The 70-year-old vessel, purchased as HMS Hercules from Great Britain in 1957, was later rechristened as 'INS Vikrant' and helped enforce a naval blockade of East Pakistan - now Bangladesh - during the 1971 war.
Paingakar feels that many Indians want it to be converted into a permanent floating National Museum for educational, tourism and defence training purposes.
After the state government's refusal to provide finances, the Indian Navy put it up for an e-auction.