The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to respond to the plea, which sought conversion of retired naval warship ‘INS Viraat’ into a maritime museum. The court took note of the submissions of the defence ministry that the ship had already been auctioned and sold to a private company in September itself.
The MoD further submitted that as the ship was not in their possession anymore, they could not consider the request of the petitioner. While converting the plea into a representation to the MoD, the court clarified that its directions would not vest any rights in the petitioner to get the desired reliefs from the MoD and disposed of the petition.
A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Milind N Jadhav was hearing a plea by Mumbai-based private company Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd represented by one Vishnukant Sharma through advocate Nubaraga Riyaz, seeking directions to convert the ‘longest serving’ aircraft carrier, which is set to be scrapped and dismantled, to be converted into a maritime museum. The petitioner sought NOC to convert the warship from its status as ‘scrap’ to ‘preserve’.
The petitioner said it was important for citizens to know the history of Indian naval force through a maritime museum and it was struggling to remove the tag of ‘scrapped’ ship and sought relief from the MoD in terms of NOC for the conversion.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the MoD, opposed the plea and said the carrier, which officially retired in 2017, was not in its possession and was already sold to a private company, Shriram Group of Industries, this year, following due auction process and therefore it cannot consider the petitioner’s request.
After hearing submissions and perusing material on record, the bench said it will transfer the petition to the secretary of the MoD as representation seeking NOC, which can respond to the same and clarify its position. ASG Singh opposed this and said the MoD was in no position to consider the plea.
Disposing of the plea, the court directed the MoD to decide pending representation as per law and said, “We clarify that we have not commented on the merits of the petitioners’ claim, nor have recognised any additional right in favour of the petitioners or any liability upon the respondents. It would be desirable that the decision is taken early as, if the ship is dismantled, an irretrievable situation may take place.”
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