Justifying its decision to scrap INS Vikrant, the Union Ministry of Defence today told the Bombay High Court that the ship has completed its operational life and it would be in the best interest of the naval services to dispose it instead of preserving it.
"INS 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 requires heavy expenditure of public funds," the MoD said in an affidavit.
The affidavit was filed today in reply to a public interest litigation demanding that INS Vikrant, India's first aircraft carrier, to be preserved and converted into a maritime museum. The PIL sought a direction to the Union government to not auction off the ship as scrap.
The Union ministry in its affidavit further said that the Indian Navy has been actively involved in preserving and maintaining INS Vikrant until now. According to the affidavit, the Navy has till now spent Rs 22 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," said the affidavit filed by Admiral Shankar Mathur, chief staff officer of the Western Naval Command.
"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," the affidavit said.
It added that the ship is now in a dangerous position and needs to be disposed of urgently.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha has posted the petition for hearing on January 18.
The petition has sought quashing of the tender issued by the ministry inviting bids for scrapping the ship. The auction is scheduled to be held on January 29.