The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking to stay the dismantling process of decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Viraat, reported Live Law.

“We are with you as far as the spirit of nationalism is concerned, but you are already too late in this case,” a bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde told the petitioner. “Forty percent of the ship has been dismantled. We cannot interfere now. [The] government has already taken a decision”

The petitioner, maritime consultancy firm Envitech Marine Consultants Private Limited, argued that even though 40% of the ship is dismantled, it can still be repaired and used as a museum, reported NDTV. If it is dismantled “it would be a national loss”, said Rupali Sharma, who was representing the company.

The petitioner wanted to buy the ship to convert it into a museum and an adventure centre. The project was to be undertaken in collaboration with the Goa government. The ship, currently owned by Shree Ram Ship Breakers, was bought in an auction last year.

During Monday’s hearing, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Shree Ram Group of Industries, told the bench that the Bombay High Court had allowed the petitioner to approach the Ministry of Defence in the case. But the government refused to give permission to convert the ship into a museum.

Envitech Marine Consultants had moved the Bombay High Court to acquire the ship. It wanted to buy INS Viraat for nearly Rs 100 crore. The Shree Ram Ship Breakers had then sought a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Defence and refused to sell the ship without it.

On November 3, the High Court had directed the Ministry of Defence to take a decision on the representation made by the company for a no-objection certificate to acquire the ship. However, the defence ministry rejected the request on November 27.

On February 10, the Supreme Court had ordered status quo on the dismantling of the decommissioned aircraft carrier.

The ship was decommissioned by the Indian Navy in March 2017. In July 2020, the Ministry of Defence sold it for Rs 38.54 crore to Shree Ram Group.

INS Viraat was the world’s oldest serving aircraft carrier. It had served the Royal Navy during the British era for 27 years as HMS Hermes before being sold to India for $465 million (over 3,487 crore). The vessel had undertaken its last journey in October 2016 from Kochi to Mumbai.

The carrier has had 2,250 sailing days and circumnavigated the globe nearly 27 times. Its name means “giant” in Sanskrit. When fully operational, Viraat had 1,500 staff members on board.