M/S. Envitech Marine Consultants … vs Union Of India on 12 April, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

M/S. Envitech Marine Consultants … vs Union Of India on 12 April, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble The Justice

                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                    CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                         SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NOs.288­289 0F 2021


          M/S ENVITECH MARINE CONSULTANTS PRIVATE
          LIMITED AND OTHERS                      …PETITIONER (S)

                                                     VERSUS
          UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                                             ...RESPONDENT(S)



                                                 ORDER

1. The writ petition filed by the petitioners, seeking a ‘No

Objection Certificate’ from the Ministry of Defence of the

Government of India, for the conversion of the warship INS Viraat

from scrap to preserve having been disposed of by the High Court of

Bombay, without commenting upon the merits of the claim of the

petitioners, but merely directing the Union of India to dispose of a

pending representation of the petitioners, the writ petitioners before

the High Court have come up with the above Special Leave

Petitions.

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Sanjay Kumar
Date: 2021.04.13
16:46:36 IST
Reason:

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2. We have heard Mrs. Rupali Vishnukant Sharma, petitioner

No.3 appearing in person both on her own behalf and on behalf of

petitioner Nos.1 and 2, Shri Balbir Singh, learned Additional

Solicitor General for the Union of India and Shri Rajeev Dhavan,

learned senior counsel appearing for the second respondent.

3. INS Viraat, formerly known as HMS Hermes, is the oldest

serving warship in the world. It served the British Navy from

November, 1959 to April, 1984 and after refurbishment it was

commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987.

4. On 1.07.2019 the Parliament was informed that the

Government had taken a decision, in consultation with the Navy to

scrap INS Viraat, as the Indian Navy had been incurring

expenditure on its upkeep and no State Government was willing to

take the ship, on account of financial liability. Therefore, the sale of

the decommissioned vessel through public auction was arranged

through a Metal Scrap Trade Corporation Limited (MSTC Ltd.)

5. In December, 2019, a public auction was held, but the same

was cancelled, as the highest bid was not deemed sufficient.

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6. According to the petitioners, they wanted to preserve INS

Viraat as a memorial to promote and strengthen Indian and British

Navy traditions, history and heritage and they approached various

corporate houses to make the project a public private partnership.

7. It is the case of the petitioners that Blackstone Corporation,

Canada, issued a Letter of Interest dated 26.03.2020. Therefore,

petitioner No.3 addressed a letter dated 28.07.2020 seeking advice

on converting the warship into a Maritime Museum cum adventure

centre. Though the first respondent acknowledged receipt of the

representation of the petitioners and directed the petitioners to re­

submit the proposal, subsequently the first respondent sought a

NOC from the Government of Goa. But by a reply dated

20.09.2020, the Chief Minister of Goa stated that the State

Government can issue no objection provided the Ministry of Defence

agreed to the proposal of the petitioners and no financial obligation

fell upon the State Government.

8. But in the meantime fresh tenders were opened and the

second respondent became the highest bidder. Therefore, a letter

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of acceptance was issued on 13.08.2020 by MSTC Limited, to the

second respondent. The second respondent made a total payment

of about Rs. 38.54 crores, and the second respondent was issued

with a delivery Order dated 22.10.2020.

9. In the meantime the ship was permanently beached on

30.9.2020 and the petitioners appear to have approached the

second respondent. By a mail dated 6.10.2020 the second

respondent, without giving any guarantee, advised the petitioners to

take a NOC from the Government of India with a direction to the

associated departments of the Central and State Governments for

taking the ship out of the yard and converting it into a Museum. It

was made clear by the second respondent in the said mail dated

6.10.2020 that their agreement to the proposal was subject to two

more conditions namely (i) that 100% payment should be made

before 12th October, 2020 and (ii) that the deadline for pulling the

ship towards the ocean was 15th October, 2020.

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10. Obviously the petitioners could not comply with those

conditions. However, they moved the High Court of Bombay by way

of a writ petition in Writ Petition No.5412 of 2020. This writ

petition was disposed of by the High Court of Bombay by an Order

dated 3.11.2020, directing the Union of India to take a decision on

the representation of the petitioners. It was clarified by the High

Court that they have not commented on the merits of the

petitioners’ claim nor had they recognized any right in favour of the

petitioners.

11. Not satisfied with the said order, the petitioners came up with

the above special leave petitions. Considering the spirit with which

the petitioners had come to Court, notice was ordered in the special

leave petitions and an interim order to maintain status quo with

regard to dismantling/breaking of the ship was also granted.

12. Thereafter, the second respondent came up with applications

for urgent hearing and vacating the status quo order and we took

up the Special Leave Petitions for consideration.

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13. Three factual aspects clinch the issue arising for our

consideration. The first is that the second respondent was willing

to subscribe to the sentiments of the petitioners, subject to certain

conditions stipulated in the E­Mail dated 6.10.2020, but the

petitioners could not comply with those conditions. The second is

that subsequent to the disposal of the writ petition by Order dated

3.11.2020, the Ministry of Defence passed an Order dated

27.11.2020 rejecting the representation of the petitioners. This

order has not been challenged by petitioners. Obviously the

petitioners cannot do anything with the warship, without the NOC

from Ministry of Defence and the letter of the Ministry of Defence

dated 27.11.2020 has virtually put the lid on the aspirations of the

petitioners. Thirdly, the second respondent claims to have started

the dismantling/recycling work three months ago and according to

the certificate issued by the Marine Surveyors, about 35 to 40%

work of dismantling had already been completed. The certificate of

the surveyors shows that the vessel got severe hull damage in many

areas, during embarkation of loose parts and equipments. All

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documents and certificates as well as the operational manuals have

been removed and the navigational items and communications

devices broken and removed. According to the surveyors, the vessel

is in ‘grounded condition’ and can be called a dead structure.

14. Therefore, while appreciating the sentiments of the petitioners,

we are afraid that we cannot do anything at this stage and in these

circumstances. Hence the Special Leave Petitions are dismissed.

There will be no order as to costs.

……………………………..CJI
(S.A. BOBDE)

……………………………….J.

(A.S. BOPANNA)

………………………………..J.

(V. RAMASUBRAMANIAN)
New Delhi
April 12, 2021

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