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K.M. NANAVATI V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA - 1961

By

Sudhanshu Joshi, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Indore Institute of Law, Indore, M.P


INTRODUCTION

K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1962 SC 605) was a landmark case in the criminal history of India which has been a case discussed ever since. This judgment made its place as soon as it was pronounced. K.M. Nanavati was a naval commander put up on trial under ss. 302 and 304 Part I of the Indian Penal Code for the alleged murder of his wife's lover with his official gun. [i]


Parsi young man Kavas Manekshaw Nanavati was commander in the Navy. His wife Selvia fell in love with Prem Ahuja who was a Sindhi young businessman. He was a flair for parties and was known for a luxurious lifestyle. When K.M Nanavati comes to know that his wife Selvia loves Prem Ahuja then he gets very depressed. One day Nanavati sent his wife to watch the film and went to meet Prem Ahuja. Three shots were fired and Prem Ahuja's body was on the floor. Nanavati then reached the police station directly and surrendered.[ii] Nanavati's case reaches the court, where it is discussed whether he angrily killed Ahuja, or it was a thoughtful murder.


The appeal presented the commonplace problem of an alleged murder by an enraged husband of a paramour of his wife: but it aroused tidy interest within the public mind because of the content it received and therefore the vital constitutional purpose it had given rise to at the time of its admission. This was the last case to be heard as a jury trial in India because as a result of this case, the government the jury trials in India.[iii] Unprecedented media attention and termination of Jury Trials are a few reasons that got this case the limelight in those times.


This case decided on 24/11/1961 and the judges involved in this case was Hon'ble justice Subbarao, K., Hon'ble justice S.K. Das and Hon'ble justice Dayal Raghubar. The Laws and Acts applied, in this case, was India Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, Indian Evidence Act, 1872.


THE MAJOR FACTS

  • Kavas Manekshaw Nanavati was an Indian Naval Officer, he married Sylvia in 1949 and had three children and shifted to Bombay in March 1959 with his family.

  • In the same city, the deceased Prem Ahuja was doing business in automobiles and was residing, along with his sister, A common friends of Nanavati's and Ahujas, introduced Ahuja and his sister to K.M. Nanavati and Sylvia.

  • While he was out of Bombay for his duty, Sylvia, his wife, developed an illicit relationship with Prem Ahuja.

  • On April 27, 1959, Sylvia tells her husband Nanavati that she loves someone. And he was no one else but his family friend Prem Ahuja. She could not even understand the effect of her self-confession on Nanavati's mind.

  • On the same day, Nanavati took his wife and children to Cinema, it was pre-decided. Then in the heat of his agony, he went to his ship to procure a loaded revolver and drove himself to Prem Ahuja’s office. On not finding him at his workplace, then he drove to his residence. Ahuja was taking a bath, and his maid brought Nanavati to her apartment. He went straight to her bedroom. Three shots of firing came after a few minutes of silence. Ahuja's body wearing only a towel was on the floor. Thereafter Nanavati surrendered to the police.

  • K.M. Nanavati was charged under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The trial court convicted him under section 304A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and later under an appeal the high court converted it into Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


ISSUES

  • Whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in “the heat of the moment” or whether it was a premeditated murder?

ARGUMENTS IN BRIEF

  • Arguments In Favour of Petitioner

K.M. Nanavati was an officer in the Navy and lived mostly outside the country. He married a girl of foreign origin named Sylvia in 1949. And they had three children, a boy aged 9 and a half years, a girl aged 5 and a half years and the youngest boy aged 3 years. The couple were living at different places having relevance to the exigencies of service of Nanavati. Lastly, they shifted to Bombay. K.M. Nanavati and Sylvia in Bombay through a common friend Agniks met the deceased Prem Ahuja in the year 1956, Prem Ahuja had an automobile business in Bombay and residence with his sister. Ahuja was unmarried. Nanavati had to stay away from home, mostly due to her work. He stays away from Mumbai for a long time. And his wife lived in Mumbai with her three children alone. Due to loneliness, Prem Ahuja signed in Sylvia 's life. Sylvia and Prem fell in love with each other. Sylvia wanted to marry Prem and wanted to divorce Nanavati, but Prem did not want to do so. Here Sylvia suspects him. When K.M. Nanavati reaches Mumbai from his work, he sees Sylvia very upset and disturbed at home. On April 27, 1959, Sylvia confessed to Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Prem Ahuja. Hearing this, Nanavati gets upset and disturbed, he drowns in thought, but he does not show it to his wife and children. When Nanavati asked if Prem Ahuja would marry her, she became silent. After some time he takes his wife and children to the metro cinema to see the film. It was already decided. After dropping his wife and children to the cinema, He tells his wife that he has some work and he is leaving. He drove his car to his ship, as he wanted to get medicine for his sick dog he represented to the authorities in the ship, that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the stores of the ship as he was going to drive alone to Ahmednagar by night, though the real purpose was to shoot himself. After this, he goes to Ahuja's office, where he does not find him. Then Nanavati went to Ahuja's house, entered his bedroom. Ahuja was bathing at that time and was wearing only a towel. Nanavati asks whether he would marry Sylvia and look after the children. The deceased retorted, “Am I to marry every woman I sleep with? Then Nanavati became angered, placing the envelope containing the revolver on a cupboard near, and vulnerable to thrashing the deceased. The deceased created an unexpected move to know at the envelope, once Nanavati whipped out his revolver and told him to induce back. A struggle ensued between them and through that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja leading to his death. Once the shooting the defendant went back to his car and drove it to the police office wherever he had given himself. thus the defendant shot at the deceased underneath grave and unexpected provocation, and thus although he had committed an offence, it'd not be murder however solely guilty kill not amounting to murder.[iv]

  • Arguments in favour of Respondent

On 27 April 1959, Sylvia confessed to Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Ahuja. Then Nanavati angered at the conduct of Ahuja, Hearing this, Nanavati gets upset and disturbed, he drowns in thought, but he does not show it to his wife and children. When Nanavati asked if Prem Ahuja would marry her, she became silent. After some time he takes his wife and children to the metro cinema to see the film. It was already decided, After drop his wife and children to cinema, He tells his wife that he has some work and he is leaving, Nanavati visited his ship, took from the stores of the ship a semi-automatic revolver and 6 cartridges on a false pretext, loaded revolver and visited the flat of Ahuja entered his bedroom and shot him dead. The first contention was raised that a scuffle took place between Ahuja and Nanavati during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja resulting in his death. But Ahuja had to wear a towel only. Once his body was discovered, his towel was still intact on his body. It had neither disentangled nor fallen off that was extremely unbelievable just in case of a scuffle. After Sylvia’s confession, Nanavati takes them to the cinema hall and escapes by making a false excuse. This shows he had enough time and provocation was neither grave nor sudden that Nanavati had planned the murder. Moreover, in line with the testimony of Ahuja’s servant at the house throughout the incidence was a real witness, testified that there are three shots consecutively in quick succession and additionally the whole event occurred in a flash thereby ruling out scuffle. Nanavati walked out of Ahuja’s residence, whereas not explaining to his sister Mamie. The deputy commissioner of police testified that Nanavati confessed that he had shot dead Ahuja and even corrected the orthography of his name among the police record thereby showing Nanavati wasn't dazed.[v]

COURT'S DECISION

  • Jury Trial

The Greater Bombay Sessions Court’s Jury was only responsible for declaring someone as 'Guilty' or 'Not Guilty' under applied charges. K.M. Nanavati was arrested and facing a charge under Section 302 of Indian Penal Court, presented in Session court. The jury in the Greater Bombay sessions court with 8–1 judges pronounced that Nanavati is not guilty under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 which Nanavati was charged.

  • High Court

Sessions Judge Mr. Ratilal Bhaichand Mehta considered the acquittal as perverse and referred the case to the Bombay High Court under Section 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1893. Bombay High Court dissolve the Jury trial verdicts on the basis following points-

  • The burden of proving that it was Associate in the accident and not measured murder was on Nanavati.

  • Sylvia's confession, or any specific incident in Ahuja's room, or each didn't amount to the grave and unexpected provocation.

  • The judge wrongly told the jury that the provocation may also come from a 3rd person.

  • The jury didn't learn that Nanavati's defence had to be evidenced, to the extent that there's no cheap doubt within the mind of the common person.

The High Court agreed with the prosecution's argument that the murder was premeditated and sentenced Nanavati to life imprisonment for culpable homicide amounting to murder.

  • Supreme Court

This case reached the Supreme Court on 24 November 1961. The court held that the conduct of the suspect clearly shows that the murder was a deliberate and calculated one and also the facts of the case don't attract the provisions of Exceptions 1 of Section 300 of IPC because the suspect also did not bring the case beneath General Exception of IPC by statement proof. within the result, the conviction of the suspect beneath Section 302 of IPC and sentenced him of imprisonment. [vi]


CONCLUSION

The jury had heard the Nanavati case. The jury had Nine Judges, eight in favour of Nanavati and one in opposition. It was only after this case that the jury system was dissolved. It is said that the jury's Judges were influenced by the media and the crowd outside the court. The jury ruled in favour of Nanavati and then referred the matter to the Bombay High Court. This case from the High Court went to the Supreme Court from where Nanavati was sent to jail. However, he was released after three years when Nehru's sister Vijay Laxmi Pandit became Governor of Maharashtra. From this, we will say the literal rule has been applied to the court and simply browse the plain text of the constitution that was utilized by the SC during this case. solely on the failure of literal rule the opposite rules of interpretation may be used. however, the law is incredibly clear and then there's no purpose of applying the other rule. the choice of the Supreme Court is ideal in line with Pine Tree State during this Case. there's no issue that two remedies can not be granted for one cause and the same factor is ordered down here.


[i] https://lawlex.org/lex-bulletin/case-summmary-k-m-nnavati-vs-state-of-maharashtra/18888.

[ii]https://www.livehindustan.com/news/national/article1-km-nanavati-vs-state-of-maharashtra-original-story-in-hindi-542179.html.

[iii] https://www.lawnn.com/k-m-nanavati-v-state-maharashtra/.

[iv] AIR 1962 SC 605

[v]AIR 1962 SC 605

[vi]AIR 1962 SC 605