File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Case Analysis: KM Nanavati v/s State Of Maharashtra (1961)

Laws and Acts Applied: Indian Penal Code, 1860: Sections 88, 300 Part I, 302 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898: (Act 5 of 1898) 88, 307, 410, 417, 418(1), 423(2), 297, 155(1), 162 Indian Evidence Act, 1872: (1 of 1872) 8, 105

KM Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra (1961)

Citation: AIR 1962 SC 605
Date of Judgment: 24 November 1961
Bench: K. Subbarao, S. K. Das, Raghubar Dayal

Introduction
K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra is a landmark case in the Indian legal history. The case grabbed attention from all sides as a high rank navy officer was involved in the murder of his wife's paramour. This case is considered important not just because it gained popularity but also because many important legal issues were raised in this case.

Numerous books have been written and many movies and documentaries have been made on this famous case. The case of KM Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra is also considered responsible for the end of jury trials in India.

Facts of the Case
The accused/appellant Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati was married to Sylvia and had three children. Being a navy officer, Nanavati had a transferable job. When he came to Bombay, he was introduced to Prem Ahuja through a common friend. Nanavati had to be away from Bombay many a times as a part of his service and he would leave his wife and three children back in Bombay. In Nanavati's absence, friendship developed between Nanavati's wife Sylvia and Prem Ahuja. Later both of them indulged in an illicit relationship.

On 18th April, 1959, when Nanavati returned back from his ship, he tried to be affectionate to his wife however, she would turn him away. The same incident was repeated on 27th April 1959 and Sylvia again chose to be unresponsive towards Nanavati. He questioned her whether she had been faithful towards him in his absence or not to which Sylvia answered in negative. Sylvia told Nanavati about her illicit relationship with her paramour Prem Ahuja and Nanavati decided to talk to Ahuja regarding the matter.

Nanavati dropped his wife and his children to the cinema and told them that he would pick them up later. Then he drove to his ship from where he got a revolver and six rounds on a false pretext. From there he drove to Ahuja's office. On not finding him there Nanavati drove to Ahuja's flat.

On reaching Ahuja's flat, Nanavati confirmed his presence from the servant. Nanavati went to Ahuja's bedroom and closed the door of the room. He asked Ahuja of his intentions about his wife Sylvia and his three children and asked whether he would marry his wife and take care of his three children to which Ahuja replied that he was not bound to marry every woman he slept with. On hearing this, an enraged Nanavati got into a scuffle with Ahuja. He took out his revolver and shot at Ahuja and as a result Ahuja died.

Nanavati then rushed to the nearest police station to confess his crime and a case was registered against him.

Issues Raised:
  1. Whether the accused Nanavati shot Ahuja in grave and sudden provocation and in the 'heat of the moment' or was it a premediated murder?
  2. Whether Special Leave Petition (SLP) can be entertained without fulfilling the order under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution?

Answer to Issue 1:
The Test of Sudden and Grave Provocation: There are a few exceptions to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code and one of them is sudden and grave provocation. When a person causes the death of another person under sudden and grave provocation by the person killed or in the heat of the moment, that person will be liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

However, the accused needs to prove the following essentials:
  1. Gestures and actions can also cause sudden and grave provocation to the accused.
  2. Whether a reasonable man having the same capacity and belonging to the same class of the society, if placed in the same situation as the accused, would also be provoked as the accused.
  3. The fatal blow should be the result of the grave and sudden provocation and that the accused had no time to premediate or calculate the results of his act.
     
Answer to Issue 2:
The Special Leave Petition was dismissed by the Supreme Court by a majority decision holding that the Special Leave Petition could not be listed for hearing unless the accused surrenders under Article 142 of the Constitution (as per the High Court order).1.

Arguments
Contentions of the Petitioner
The petitioner argued that when Sylvia told Nanavati about her relationship with Prem Ahuja, he wanted to commit suicide. Nanavati decided to find out whether Ahuja would marry his wife Sylvia or not. So he dropped his wife and three children to the cinema and went to his ship to take his revolver.

When Nanavati reached Ahuja's house and asked him whether he would marry Sylvia and take care of their three children, Ahuja replied, "Am I bound to marry every woman I sleep with?" Nanavati was enraged on hearing this and both of them engaged in a scuffle and in that fight Nanavati shot at Ahuja and he died.

Nanavati immediately went to the police station to confess his crime and surrender himself. The petitioner argued that Ahuja's statement enraged Nanavati and that there was grave and sudden provocation from the side of Ahuja due to which Nanavati could not control his anger and shot at Ahuja. Hence Nanavati was not liable for murder but for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Contentions of the Respondent
The first argument made by the respondent was that Prem Ahuja came out of the shower with a towel. When his body was found in the bedroom, the towel was still intact and if Nanavati and Ahuja had a fight then it should have come out however, it did not which raised a doubt.

Also, when Sylvia told Nanavati about her relationship with Ahuja then Nanavati dropped her and their children to the cinema which shows that he had enough time to calm down and that the provocation was not grave and that it was a planned murder.

Further, according to Ahuja's servant Anjani, who was at home when the entire incident took place, a total of four rounds were fired and the entire incident took place within a minute. The deputy director also claimed that Nanavati did not feel confused by acknowledging that he had killed Ahuja which clearly shows that it was a planned murder.

Judgment:
Jury Trial:
The case first went to the session court where the jury trial took place. In the jury trial, Nanavati was not held guilty by a majority of 8:1 under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the Session Judge was not satisfied with the decision of the jury trial and referred the case to the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court under Section 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

High Court's Judgment:
A division bench of the High Court, comprising of Justice Shelat and Justice Naik, heard the case. It was held that neither Sylvia's confession nor Ahuja's statement were grave enough to provoke Nanavati. Both the judges issued separate decisions, however, both agreed that the accused was guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and should be punished with life imprisonment. Justice Shelat evaluated the complete evidence and concluded that the accused was guilty of murder.

He also said that the jury's finding was perverse, irrational, unreasonable and contrary to the weight of evidence. Justice Naik argued that no reasonable group of people could have reached the jury's conclusion. Both the learned judges concluded that no case had been made out to lessen the offence of the accused from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The accused made an appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court's Judgment:
After looking at all the facts and the evidence which was put forth by both the parties, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India held that the murder was premediated and that the defence of sudden or grave provocation could not be taken. The apex court observed that Nanavati dropped his wife and children to the cinema and then went to take his revolver, he then went to Ahuja's office and then to his home. This showed that Nanavati had sufficient time to calm down and to plan Ahuja's murder. Hence the murder was intentional and not in the 'heat of the moment'.

The apex court also held that the Governor's power to pardon and special leave petition could not exercise simultaneously and both of them could not be moved together. If a special leave petitioner was filed before the Supreme Court then the pardoning powers of the Governor were terminated. The Supreme Court concluded that the governor "overreached" the powers conferred on him.2.

The Supreme Court agreed with the observations of the Bombay High Court and concluded that there was misdirection on the part of the jury. The apex court also said that the Bombay High Court should evaluate the evidence and even refer to the opinions of the judges and the jury and then pass the judgment of either acquittal or conviction after the reference made by the Session's Judge under Section 307 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court laid down two rules to be followed while determining the competency of the referral of a Session's Judge. Firstly, the judge must dissent from the decision of the jury. Secondly, the Session Judge must be of the opinion that the decision pronounced must be of such nature that no reasonable man could have pronounced. If the above stated two conditions are not satisfied, then only the High Court has the power to reject the referral of the Session's Judge.

So, the decision of the High Court was upheld by the Supreme Court of India and the appeal was dismissed. Exception 1 of Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code was held not applicable in this case and Nanavati was held liable for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

Analysis of the Case
The case of K.M Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra is considered as the most important cases in the legal history of India. In this case it was observed that though the burden of proof was on the prosecution however, during the application of Exceptions under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, the burden of proof shifted on the accused and Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 came into play.

This case also led to an end of jury trials. The Supreme Court of India agreed with the Bombay High Court that there had been misdirection by the jury.

Exception 1 under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, i.e. Defense of Grave and Sudden Provocation can be applied only if the following conditions are fulfilled:
  1. The accused was provocated by the deceased
  2. The provocation was grave and sudden
  3. The provocation deprived the accused of self-control
  4. Whether a reasonable man having the same capacity and belonging to the same class of the society, if placed in the same situation as the accused, would also be provoked as the accused
  5. The accused had no time to premediate the result of his act

Post Judgment
Nanavati had ties with the Nehru-Gandhi family during his period of service. Vijaylakshmi Pandit, sister of Jawahar Lal Nehru, was the then Governor of Maharashtra. On 8th September 1960, Nanavati was transferred from naval custody to a civilian prison. He stayed in jail for a period of three years only. Nanavati got parole on health grounds and was moved to a bungalow at a hill resort.

The Parsi community, to which he belonged, provided massive support to Nanavati through media and also held rallies in support of him. The common masses portrayed Nanavati as a sincere and honest officer who was wronged by his wife and betrayed by a friend. Nanavati was considered to be the modern age Ram and Ahuja was considered to be Ravana. In 1964 Nanavati was pardoned by Vijaylakshmi Pandit, the then Governor of Maharashtra.

Conclusion
The case of K.M Nananvati vs. State of Maharashtra is considered to be a landmark case not just because of the fame it gained but also because it helped in answering some very important legal issues which were raised in this case. Though the court convicted the accused yet popular public support led to the pardoning of the accused.

This case upheld the fact that law is same and equal for everyone, even the ones from the higher strata of the society are dealt with the same law. This case helped in answering important legal issues and thus increasing the case's importance.

End-Notes:
  1. Priyanjali Priyadarshani, Km Nanavati V. State Of Maharashtra https://judicateme.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/K.M.Nanavati-v.-State-of-Maharashtra.pdf, (Visited on 22 August, 2022).
  2. Swayam Raychoudhury, Km Nanavati V. State Of Maharashtra, https://lawcorner.in/km-nanavati-vs-state-of-maharashtra-case-analysis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=km-nanavati-vs-state-of-maharashtra-case-analysis, (Visited on 23 August, 2022).
Written By: Akshita Tandon - 4th Year Law Student, University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Punjab

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers



Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


LawArticles

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi

Titile

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...

Titile

The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage

Titile

It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Sexually Provocative Outfit Statement In...

Titile

Wednesday, Live Law reported that a Kerala court ruled that the Indian Penal Code Section 354, ...

UP Population Control Bill

Titile

Population control is a massive problem in our country therefore in view of this problem the Ut...

Privatisation Of Government Sector

Titile

Privatization of presidency Sector Although in today's time most of the services provided in ou...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online


File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly