Case Analysis: K.M. Nanavati Vs State of Maharashtra

By Subhajit Samanta, University of Calcutta.


Sylvia and Kawas Nanavati, shortly after they got married in 1949.


The case of K.M. Nanavati vs the State of Maharashtra (AIR 1962 SC 605) was one of the most famous jury trials in the history of the Indian Judiciary and after this lawsuit, the jury prosecution was abolished forever by the government of India. The conditions and facts of this case obtained remarkable media coverage and prompted a lot of serials, books, and movies over the last years. Even though, this case brings out a very crucial theory of ‘Grave and Sudden Provocation’ in Indian law. This paper tries to evaluate the case in detail and also examines the various important points such as background & facts, legal issues, arguments, judgement, etc.

‘Blitz’ ran an intensive coverage of the case.


Background & Facts

  • In this case, the accused is K. M. Nanavati who was a naval officer and second in command of the Indian naval ship “Mysore”. In 1949, he has married a girl named Sylvia and they have three children. During his service, Nanavati and his family lived in various places in the nation before shifting to Bombay. In the same city of Bombay, a businessman named Prem Bhagwan Ahuja was residing and was introduced to them by a common friend. 
  • The prosecution's spouse Smt. Sylvia who was told to him about her unlawful relationship with Prem Ahuja then Nanavati early reached to his ship and brought from its store's cartridges and revolver on a false excuse packed the same thereafter reached to Ahuja's flat then found his bedroom and committed death of Ahuja by shot him. 
  • From there the accused moved to the closest police station to acknowledge his crime. Thereafter, he was disclosed not guilty under Section 302 IPC by the Jury with an 8:1 verdict. However, the Sessions Judge differed with this verdict passed by the jury and presumed that no logical body of human did come to that verdict established upon the testimony evidence. Hereafter, it was applied to a Division Bench that laid down the accused was guilty so that, the appeal was delivered to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by the filed special leave petition.


Legal Issues

There were raised two issues in this case such as:

  • Whether it was committed by premeditated murder or in the heat of a sudden moment? 
  • Whether the Governor's pardoning power and the Special Leave Petition can be taken up together? 

If it was committed in the heat of a sudden moment then the accused would be charged under Section 304 of the IPC for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. On the other side, If it was committed by premeditated murder then he would be charged under Section 300 IPC for murder with the sentence being death or life imprisonment.


Defence Arguments


At first, Nanavati reached Ahuja’s office however, he did not get him to the place, then he arrived at Ahuja’s flat but the doors were unlocked by Ahuja's servant thereafter, stepping towards the bedroom and closing the door back him. At that time, Nanavati was also conveying the wrapper including the revolver. When the accused saw that Ahuja was inner his bedroom then he described him with dirty words and wanted to know if Ahuja can marry Nanavati's wife and would care for their three kids? Thereafter, Prem Ahuja said, “Am I supposed to marry every woman I sleep with?”. After hearing this, the accused was provoked and that's why he packed the revolver from the neighbouring compartment and was intimidated to whip Ahuja when he reacted rudely afterwards, Nanavati pulled out his pistol and announced to Ahuja for return and during the fight, two rounds were mistakenly fired and Ahuja died.


Prosecution’s Arguments


Prem Ahuja was almost leaving the shower to wear a towel and his towel was still on his body when his body originated. It was not fallen off or relaxed which was unlikely in the event of a scuffle and his servant Anjali presented the place at the time of the committing offence and Ahuja's Servant was granted testified that four shots were fired in quick and the whole incident was committed in less than a moment. Afterwards, Nanavati reached out to the Deputy Commissioner of Police and he acknowledged the shooting to Ahuja and committed a premeditated murder by the accused.


Judgement


The Hon'ble Bombay High Court's a division Bench comprising of Justice Shelat and Justice Naik who have heard the prosecution. The two heard Judges granted distinct judgments though, both agreed that Nanavati was guilty of murder under Section 302 of IPC and he ought to be retaliated by life imprisonment. In the time of conclusion, Justice Shelat elucidated the whole evidence and assumed that Nanavati was decisively guilty of the murder. On the other side, he announced the statement that the jury’s discovery was irrational, stubborn and contrary to the burden of proof. Afterwards, Justice Naik picked out to enter his drawing to the other argument that no adequate section of people could have arrived at the jury’s decision. Both the Judges approved that any case which has not been constructed to decrease the offence from murder to culpable homicide does not amount to murder. Afterwards, the plea was preferred against the declared conviction and sentence passed by the Bombay High Court. 

The Hon'ble Supreme Court endorsed the judgement of the Bombay High court which laid down that Nanavati was guilty under Section 302 of IPC and convicted him to rigorous imprisonment for life. Thereafter, SC judgement conferred that Nanavati was worrying about the future of his wife and their children which denotes that he had not merely regained his consciousness but, he was also planning for the future. There was a time-lapse between his wife's confession and the murder of his wife's lover Prem Ahuja and it was sufficient to grasp that he could have recouped his self-control. The only applicable fact is that before the firing of Prem Ahuja, Nanavati harmed the deceased and the invective provoked an equally awful reaction regardless, it could have not been an incitement for the murder.


Conclusion

This case is one of the last cases to be heard as a jury trial in the history of the Indian judiciary and after the results of this case, the government abolished jury trials. In this case, Hon'ble Supreme Court agreed with the Bombay High Court's judgement as life imprisonment however, after spending three years in jail Nanavati was pardoned under article 161 of the Constitution of India by the Governor of Maharashtra Vijay Lakshmi Pandit in 1964. Thereafter, Nanavati and his family emigrated to Canada in 1968.


Views expressed are the author’s own, 

Law Daily neither endorses it nor is responsible for them.

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