The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to decide on a private firm's request that decommissioned aircraft carrier Viraat be handed over to it, so that the ship could be converted into a museum. While the warship is awaiting dismantling at a ship scrapping yard at Alang in Gujarat, the Union government said it had no objection if the petitioner bought it from the bidder who purchased it for scrapping.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav was hearing a petition filed by Mumbai-based Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd, seeking a direction to the Union Ministry of Defence to allow it to buy Viraat. The company wanted to convert the ship into a maritime museum and multi-functional adventure centre, the plea said.
The HC said that the relief sought by the petitioner was a matter of policy. "Even if INS Viraat is to be converted into a museum….necessary permissions are required to be obtained.
It would thus be appropriate that the Ministry of Defence takes a suitable decision," it said. The petition said that Viraat was the oldest serving warship in the world when it was decommissioned.
"Such a carrier is being sold as scrap by the Union government instead of converting it into a maritime museum.The petitioner has filed an application to the government in July seeking its No Objection to take possession of the carrier and convert it into a museum," it said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh said the ship is 67 years old and was lying unused since 2015. "The Union government had initially written to all state governments calling for proposals but there was no reply. The ship was occupying a lot of space and hence the government decided to sell it as scrap," Singh said.
Gujarat-based Shree Ram Group won the bid, he said, adding that the sale process was completed in September and the government has received the money. "Hence the government is no more concerned with the ship as its owner is now the winning bidder," ASG Singh said.
But the petitioner company can approach Shree Ram Group and purchase the ship from it, the ASG said, adding that "we (government) do not have any objection". The HC said that the concerned secretary of the Union government should decide on the petitioner's application.
"It would be desirable that the decision is taken early as if the ship is dismantled, an irretrievable situation may take place," the court said, disposing of the petition.