Case Studies
K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra 1961 | Brief of Landmark Judgement

K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra 1961 | Brief of Landmark Judgement

K.M. Nanavati vs the state of Maharashtra is a murder case in which Indian naval officer Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati murdered the paramour of her wife.

Bollywood film Rustom of Akshay Kumar is based on this case and Akshay played the role of Nanavati in the movie.

Sylvia, the wife of Nanavati, and Nanavati both moved to Bombay. They both met Ahujas at a party through their common friend Agnis in 1956. As the friendship developed, Prem Ahuja and Sylvia developed a sexual relationship. On 27 April 1969 Sylvia confessed to Nanavati about her relationship with Ahuja.

Enraged at the conduct of Ahuja, Nanavati went to his ship and from the stores of the ship, he brought with him a semi-automatic revolver and six cartridges on a false pretext.

Then he drove his car to Ahuja’s office, and not finding him there, he went to his flat, he went to his bedroom and shut the door behind him. Both Ahuja and Nanavati had some heated arguments, suddenly a struggle ensued between the two, and two shots were fired which resulting in Ahuja’s death.

Judgement K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case

After the death of Ahuja, the case was tried before the jury, Nanavati was charged with section 302 and 304. Jury by the verdict of 8:1 jury held Nanavati not guilty of murder by accepting the general exception of provocation.

The session judge did not agree with the jury and submitted the case to Bombay High court. Session judge took the view that no reasonable body of men could, having regard to evidence, bring in such a verdict.

Judgment of K.M. Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra case

Then it was heard by a bench consisting of Justice Shelat and Naik, and both delivered the separate judgment but agreeing with each other held Nanavati guilty of murder.

Justice Shelat held that there were misdirections to the jury. Justice Naik took an alternative view, namely, that no reasonable body of persons could have come to the conclusion arrived at by the jury.

Both the judge agreed that no case had been made out to reduce the offense from murder to culpable homicide.

Appeal in Supreme court.

Mr. G.S. Pathak raised before the court the following points.

  1. Under s. 307 of CrPC high court has no jurisdiction to consider the evidence and come to conclusion.
  2. The high court has no power to set aside the verdict of the jury under section 307(3) of CrPC.
  3. The verdict of the High court was not perverse.
  4. The accused acted in a grave and sudden provocation, and therefore even if he had committed an offense it is culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

After applying the test of sudden and ‘grave provocation’ Supreme Court said when Sylvia confessed to his husband that she had illicit intimacy with Ahuja, the latter was not present.

We will assume that he lost his control. But if his version is true for the purpose of this argument we shall accept that he was thinking about the future of his family and also asking questions to Ahuja for his conduct. This attitude of the accused clearly shows that he regained his control and was thinking about the future of his family.

The Supreme court bench of Subba Rao did not accept the exception 1 to 300 of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme court upheld the conviction of life imprisonment given by the High court.

Test of grave and sudden provocation.

Provocation is whether a reasonable man, belonging to the same class of society as the accused, placed in the situation in which the accused was placed would be so provoked as to lose his control.

The mental background created by the previous act of the victim may be taken into consideration in ascertaining whether the subsequent act caused sudden provocation for commuting the crime.

Nanavati was granted parole on health grounds in 1963 and a year later was pardoned by the new Bombay Governor and Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit.

This case raised questions on trial by jury, after this case Indian state governments started abolishing jury trials. Jury trials in India lasted till 1973, but jury trial is still available for partial matrimonial disputes

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