On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered a status quo on the demolition of a decommissioned aircraft carrier, INS Viraat.
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna, and V Ramasubramanian passed the order in a plea by Envitech Marine Consultants Private Limited, in the backdrop of a campaign on social media to save the warship and convert it into a maritime heritage museum.
Mukesh Patel, Chairman of the Shree Ram Group at Alang in Bhavnagar district which bought Viraat at an auction in July 2020, for Rs 38.54 crore, said that the firm began the dismantling process in December.
Viraat, the world’s longest-serving warship was decommissioned by the Indian Navy, four years ago. As per sources, around 30% of the dismantling work of ‘Viraat’ has been completed and the entire vessel is expected to be dismantled in nine months.
Originally built as the HMS Hermes for the UK Royal Navy, the INS Viraat was sold to India in 1986. A vital part of Indian naval history, Viraat was deployed for important peace-keeping missions off the coast of Sri Lanka in 1988, and in the Kargil War in 1999.
State governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh had earlier expressed interest in purchasing and preserving the vessel. The Maharashtra government had mooted a Rs 852-crore plan to turn it into a maritime museum, to be jointly managed with a private player; alternatively, it proposed to sink the ship off the Konkan coast and turn it into a dive site. On the other hand, the Andhra government had also drafted a Rs 1,000-crore plan to turn it into a naval museum. But it appears none of these plans have materialized.
The centaur-class aircraft carrier was in service with the Indian Navy for 29 years before being decommissioned in March 2017. Reportedly, the warship had reached the Alang ship breaking yard from Mumbai in September.