Case Study on K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra

K.M. NANAVATI V. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA

(AIR 1962 SC 605)

INTRODUCTION

K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra is one of India’s landmark judgments that received unparalleled media coverage. It presented the commonplace question of a suspected murder by an enraged husband of his wife’s paramour. It sets an example of an upper-class crime of passion arousing considerable interest in the public mind.

COURT:  Supreme Court of India

BENCH:  Subbarao, K.Das, S.K.Dayal, Raghubar

APPELLANT: K.M. Nanavati

 

RESPONDENT: State of Maharashtra

ISSUES

  • Whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in “the heat of the moment” or whether it was a premeditated murder?
  • Whether SLP (Special Leave Petition) can be entertained without fulfilling the order under Article 142?

FACTS

  • KM Nanavati was second in command of Indian Naval Ship “Mysore” at the time of the suspected murder.
  • The deceased who resided with his sister in the same town met Nanavati and Sylvia through mutual friends.
  • Illicit relationship formed between Ahuja, the deceased and Nanavati’s wife.
  • Having returned to Bombay, Nanavati observed his wife’s unaffected behavior towards him.
  • She admitted her unlawful relationship with Ahuja when interrogated.
  • He then agreed to get Ahuja to resolve the matter.
  • He dropped his wife and children to a movie theater and went to his ship where, under a false excuse, he took the revolvers.
  • Then, he went to the office of Ahuja. He went to his home, where the murder took place, when he did not find him there.
  • The accused went to the police station after he shoot and surrendered himself.
  • Jury voted in favor of the accused.
  • Pursuant to section 307 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, the case was referred to hon’ble high court.
  • The High Court Division Bench went on to declare the accused guilty under IPC Section 302.
  • The Supreme Court finally ruled upon an appeal.
  • The appellate court ruled that the sessions court had misdirections.
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Argument of Petitioner

The argument put forward by Nanavati ‘s counsel was that Nanavati tried to kill himself after hearing Sylvia’s confession but Sylvia managed to calm him down. Sylvia hadn’t told him whether or not Ahuja wanted to marry her, he decided to find out for himself. So, at the cinema hall, he dropped his wife and two children and took his car to his ship, as he wanted his sick dog to get medicine. He reported to the ship’s authorities that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the ship’s stores as he would travel alone by night to Ahmednagar, though the real intention was to shoot himself. Upon obtaining the revolver and six cartridges, put them in a brown envelope. Then he drove his car to Ahuja ‘s office, and when he didn’t find him there, he drove to Ahuja ‘s flat which a servant had opened, walked to Ahuja ‘s bedroom, walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He also brought the envelope which contained the revolver with him. The accused saw the deceased inside the bedroom, called him a filthy swine and asked him if he would marry Sylvia and take care of the kids. The deceased responded, “Am I to marry every woman that I sleep with? “The accused got furious, placed the revolver envelope in a nearby cabinet and threatened to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden attempt to take hold of the envelope when the accused whipped his revolver out and ordered him to return back. There was a struggle between the two and two shots went off accidentally during the struggle and hit Ahuja which resulted in his death. The accused went back to his car after the attack, and took it to the police station where he confessed. Consequently, the accused shot at the deceased under grave and sudden provocation, and therefore, even though he had committed a crime, it would not be murder, but rather a culpable homicide not amount to murder.

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ARGUMENT OF RESPONDENT

The first point that came up was that Ahuja had just come out of the shower wearing towel. His towel was still intact on his body, when his corpse was found. It had neither loosened nor fallen off and in the case of a scuffle was extremely unlikely. Moreover, a cool and composed Nanavati took them to a movie hall after Sylvia ‘s confession, dropped them down there and then went to his shop to retrieve his gun, too, under a false pretext. This shows that he had enough time to calm down and that provocation was neither grave nor sudden and that Nanavati had planned the murder.

However, according to Ahuja’s servant ‘s testimony, Anjani, who was present at the house during the incident and thus was a natural witness, confirmed that there were four shots consecutively in rapid succession and that the entire incident occurred in less than a minute, thus ruling out scuffle.

Nanavati walked out of Ahuja ‘s house, without explaining that it was an accident to his sister Mamie who was present in another room of the home. The deputy police commissioner testified that Nanavati admitted he had shot dead Ahuja and also corrected his name’s misspelling in the police record, thus demonstrating that Nanavati wasn’t dazed.

Judgment

The court held that the accused’s conduct clearly showed that the murder committed by him was a deliberate one and the facts of the case did not attract the provision of Exception I of section 300 of the IPC as the accused did not bring the case under General Exception of the IPC. As a result, the court convicted Nanavati under IPC section 302, and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

  • Jury Trial- Nanavati was pronounced as not guilty by the jury in the Greater Bombay Sessions Court, with an 8-1 decision. The acquittal was found unfair by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ratilal Bhaichand Mehta (the Sessions Judge) and referred the matter to the High Court.
  • High Court Verdict- The High Court dismissed the Jury’s verdict
  • Supreme Court- The SC upheld the decision of the High court
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Author: Bahaar,
Amity Law School, Noida 3rd Year student

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