New Delhi, May 15 IANS | 6 months ago

The Supreme Court will Friday hear a plea by the central government for the relocation of the country's now decommissioned first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant to Darukhana ship-breaking yard in Mumbai on grounds of its dilapidated condition.

A bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice A.K. Sikri agreed to hear the matter Friday after Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra told the court that the over 70-year-old hull of the aircraft carrier is in extreme obsolescence and was deteriorating.

"Since its hull is over 70-year-old, and due to extreme obsolescence and deterioration INS Vikrant can no longer be repaired or refurbished", the government told the court the ship may kindly be relocated. "In fact, the cost for its day to day maintenance is increasing and the cost of refurbishment would be prohibitive."

Seeking that the court revoke its May 5 order for maintaining status quo, Luthra told the court that all that the government was seeking was shifting of the decommissioned aircraft carrier from the naval dockyard to another berthing place in Darukhana ship-breaking yard in Mumbai and not dismantling it.

Luthra informed the court that the aircraft carrier was in a precarious condition and could suffer extensive damage, including sinking during monsoon rains, thereby posing serious safety related risks to the dockyard.

IB Commercial Pvt. Ltd., which bought INS Vikrant in an auction in January this year, has made arrangement for shifting it to Darukhanna ship breaking yard on May 16 as there are favourable tidal conditions on that day, the court was told.

The keel of country's first aircraft carrier, earlier known as HMS Hercules in the British Royal Navy, was laid on Oct 14, 1943, and it was launched in 1945. It was bought by India in 1957 and was commissioned in the navy on Feb 16, 1959.

The court was told that the country has already acquired INS Vikramaditya and "very critically required berthing space".

It was told that there was an acute shortage of berths for new ships that are being inducted in the navy and further delay in removing the Vikrant is likely to "impact upon national security and operational readiness".

It was argued that the space currently occupied by INS Vikrant was "immediately required in the interest of national security as five to six large ships could be anchored in that space".

Pointing to the risks, the government application seeking vacation of May 5 order, pointed to the appalling condition of the aircraft carrier, saying that in the absence of "effective dewatering equipment, any damage to the shell would result in free flooding of the entire ship and possible sinking of the ship. This is a serious safety related risk".

(Posted on 15-05-2014)

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