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Supreme Court puts on hold dismantling of INS Viraat

A file photo of INS Viraat (IANS)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold the dismantling of the decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat and issued a notice to the shipbreaking company that has bought the ship from the government as scrap.

The Supreme Court's order comes on a petition filed by a company that had offered to buy the carrier, once the flagship of the Indian Navy, for ₹ 100 crore and convert it into a museum.  anchored off the coast in Goa.

However, a large portion of the carrier has already been dismantled. The forward area of the carrier's flight deck has already been removed by the shipbreaking company.

The Defence Ministry in December last year had formally rejected a last-minute plan to try and save INS Viraat from being broken up for scrap by the shipbreaker in Gujarat.

The carrier was decommissioned in 2017 but earlier plans to convert it into a maritime museum did not take off. failed. It was later sold to Shree Ram group after an e-auction process through Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Ltd.

However, rival Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd has been looking to acquire the INS Viraat and convert into a maritime museum, anchored off the coast of Goa in partnership with the state government.

Acquired from the UK in 1986 after an extensive refit, the INS Viraat came to define Indian naval power with its fleet of Sea Harrier fighter jets. In its earlier avatar INS Viraat had served as HMS Hermes in the Royal Navy and played a decisive role in the 1982 Falkland Islands war which the UK fought against Argentina.