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A case study on:

K.M.Nanavati

Vs.
State of Maharashtra

By

DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY


Ahmedabad 382481

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Law for Engineers – SS562
Innovative Assignment

Submitted To:
Prof. Garima Panwar

DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY


Ahmedabad 382481

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank Prof. Garima Panwar for her help in this case study. Ma’am
constantly guided us throughout the semester and solved our tiny bits of doubts. We thank her
for providing us with all the case related material and also explaining all the legal terms
related to the case in the simplest manner. The material provided by her really helped us. She
made the assignment easier by constantly referencing to the real cases which helped us
immensely in learning this subject deeply and interestingly though it was completely new for
us.

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WHY WE CHOSE THIS CASE ?

1.The choice of taking the case of KM Nanavati vs state of Maharashtra was


unequivocal as it is one of the most publicized case in the history of Indian judicial
system encompassing the role of media in trials which is a very big factor in the
judgement taken by the Indian Judiciary.

2. The unprecedented media coverage from Blitz in those days to the film
‘Rustom’ made in 2017 made us dig more and be familiar with finer details of the
case.

3. The landmark judgment of restricting the use of jury in the Indian Law system
was also a critical factor in choosing this case.

4. Among other things, the Nanavati case is significant from the point of view of judicial history
because, besides being the last case in India to be tried by jury, it also has one of the most
detailed explications on Sub-Section 1 of Section 300. The exception relates to “grave and
sudden provocation” which, if upheld, reduces a crime from murder to culpable homicide not
amounting to murder, and therefore carries a significantly reduced sentence.

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CONTENTS

Acknowledgement iii
Why we chose this case iv
Table of Contents v

Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 Material Facts 3
Chapter 3 Case of the Plaintiffs 4
Chapter 4 Defense’s arguments 5
Chapter 5 Judgement 6
Chapter 6 Cases referred in 7

Chapter 7 Conclusions 8
Appendix

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CHAPTER - 1
INTRODUCTION

 Name of the Case – K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra


 Citation – AIR 1962 SC605
 Case decided on – 24.11.1961
 Judges involved in the Case- 1) Subbarao.K 2) Das. S.K. 3)
Dayal Raghubar.
 Laws and Acts Applied in the Case

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CHAPTER - 2
MATERIAL FACTS

The accused, Nanavati, at the time of the alleged murder, was second in command
of the Indian Naval Ship “Mysore”. He married Sylvia in 1949 and had three
children.Since the time of marriage, the couple were living at different places
having regard to the exigencies of service of Nanavati. Finally, they shifted to
Bombay.In the same city the deceased Ahuja was doing business in automobiles
and in the year 1956, Agniks, who were common friends of Nanavatis and Ahujas,
introduced Ahuja and his sister to Nanavatis. Ahuja was unmarried and was about
34 years of age at the time of his death. Nanavati, as a Naval Officer, was
frequently going away from Bombay in his ship, leaving his wife and children in
Bombay. Gradually, friendship developed between Ahuja and Sylvia, which
culminated in illicit intimacy between them. On April 27, 1959, Sylvia confessed
to Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Ahuja. Enraged at the conduct of Ahuja,
Nanavati went to his ship, took from the stores of the ship a semi-automatic
revolver and six cartridges on a false pretext, loaded the same and went to the flat
of Ahuja entered his bed-room and shot him dead. Thereafter, the accused
surrendered himself to the police. He was put under arrest and in due course he
was committed to the Sessions for facing a charge under s. 302 of the Indian Penal
code.

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CHAPTER - 3
Case of prosecution
This accused, at the time of the alleged murder, was second in command of the Indian Naval
Ship "Mysore". He married Sylvia in 1949 in the registry office at Portsmouth, England.
They have three children by the marriage, a boy aged 9 1/2 years a girl aged 5 1/2 years and
another boy aged 3 years. Since the time of marriage, the couple were living at different
places having regard to the exigencies of service of Nanavati. Finally, they shifted to
Bombay. In the same city the deceased Ahuja was doing business in automobiles and was
residing, along with his sister, in a building called "Shreyas" till 1957 and thereafter in
another building called "Jivan Jyot" in Setalvad Road. In the year 1956, Agniks, who were
common friends of Nanavatis and Ahujas, introduced Ahuja and his sister to Nanavatis.
Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age at the time of his death, Nanavati, as a
Naval Officer, was frequently going away from Bombay in his ship, leaving his wife and
children in Bombay. Gradually, friendship developed between Ahuja and Sylvia, which
culminated in illicit intimacy between them. On April 27, 1959, Sylvia confessed to
Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Ahuja. Enraged at the conduct of Ahuja, Nanavati went
to his ship, took from the stores of the ship a semi- automatic revolver and six cartridges on
a false pretext, loaded the same, went to the flat of Ahuja entered his bed-room and shot
him dead. Thereafter, the accused surrendered himself to the police. He was put under arrest
and in due course he was committed to the Sessions for facing a charge under s. 302 of the
Indian Penal Code.

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CHAPTER - 4
Defence’s case

The accused was away with his ship from April 6, 1959, to April 18, 1959. Immediately
after returning to Bombay, he and his wife went to Ahmednagar for about three days in the
company of his younger brother and his wife. Thereafter, they returned to Bombay and after
a few days his brother and his wife left them. After they had left, the accused noticed that
his wife was behaving strangely and was not responsive or affectionate to him. When
questioned, she used to evade the issue. At noon on April 27, 1959, when they were sitting
in the sitting-room for the lunch to be served, the accused put his arm round his wife
affectionately, when she seemed to go tense and unresponsive. After lunch, when he
questioned her about her fidelity, she shook her head to indicate that she was unfaithful to
him. He guessed that her paramour was Ahuja. As she did not even indicate clearly whether
Ahuja would marry her and look after the children, he decided to settle the matter with him.
Sylvia pleaded with him not go to Ahuja's house, as he might shoot him. Thereafter, he
drove his wife, two of his children and a neighbour's child in his car to a cinema, dropped
them there and promised to come and pick them up at 6 P.M. when the show ended. He then
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. On receiving the revolver and six cartridges, and put it inside a brown
envelope. Then he drove his car to Ahuja's office, and not finding him there, he drove to
Ahuja's flat, rang the door bell, and, when it was opened by a servant, walked to Ahuja's
bed-room, went into the bed-room and shut the door behind him. He also carried with him
the envelope containing the revolver. The accused saw the deceased inside the bed-room,
called him a filthy swine and asked him whether he would marry Sylvia and look after the
children. The deceased retorted, "Am I to marry every woman I sleep with ?" The accused
became enraged, put the envelope containing the revolver on a cabnit nearby, and threatened
to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden move to grasp at the envelope, when
the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back. A struggle ensued between
the two and during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja resulting in

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his death. After the shooting the accused went back to his car and drove it to the police
station where he surrendered himself

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CHAPTER - 5
TRIAL BY JURY

The crux of the case was whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in the "heat of the moment" or whether it
was a premeditated murder.In the former scenario, Nanavati would not have been charged under
the Indian penal code for culpable homicide, with a maximum punishment of 10 years. This is
because he could have invoked exceptions 1 and 4 of section 300 of IPC (which defines murder).
Exception 1 states:
"Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by
grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or
causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.
Exception 4 states:
"Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the
heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender having taken undue advantage or
acted in a cruel or unusual manner.
Explanation – It is immaterial in such cases which party offers the provocation or commits the first
assault."
In the latter scenario (i.e. premeditated murder), Nanavati would be charged with murder, with the
sentence being death or life imprisonment. Nanavati pleaded not guilty and his defence team
argued it a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,[9] while the prosecution argued it
was premeditated murder.
The jury in the Greater Bombay Sessions Court had only task: to pronounce a person as 'Guilty'
or 'Not Guilty' under the charges. They could not indict any accused nor could punish the
accused. The jury in the Greater Bombay sessions court pronounced Nanavati as not guilty
under section 302 under which Nanavati was charged, with an 8–1 verdict.

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CHAPTER - 6
TRIAL BY JUDGE
Mr. Ratilal Bhaichand Mehta (the sessions judge) considered the acquittal as perverse and
referred the case to the Bombay High Court. The prosecution argued that the jury had been
misled by the presiding judge on four crucial points:

1. The onus of proving that it was an accident and not premeditated murder was on
Nanavati.
2. Was Sylvia's confession grave provocation for Nanavati, or any specific incident in
Ahuja's bedroom or both?
3. The judge wrongly told the jury that the provocation can also come from a third person.
4. The jury was not instructed that Nanavati's defence had to be proved, to the extent that
there is no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person.
The court accepted the arguments, dismissed the jury's verdict and the case was freshly heard in
the high court. The trial court convicted him under Section 304A of IPC and later under an appeal
the high court converted it into Section 302 of IPC. It was held by the court that the conduct of the
accused clearly showed that the murder committed by him was a deliberate one and the facts of
the case do not attract the provision of Exception I of section 300 of IPC as the accused by
adducing evidence failed to bring the case under General Exception Of IPC .
Therefore, as a result, the court convicted Nanavati under section 302 of IPC and sentenced him
of Imprisonment for Life. Without any proper study comparing existing judicial systems and
without any effort to improve the system, it was claimed that jury had been influenced by media
and was open to being misled, the Government of India abolished jury trials soon after in most
cases except for Parsis who still have Jury Trials for their Matrimonial Disputes.

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CHAPTER - 7
CONCLUSIONS

1.It bought out the finer details of the section 300 of IPC stating when culpable
homicide amounts to murder and exception 1 and 4 which states when it does not.

2. The case involved influential personalities in the society therefore having media
intervening in cases involving popular personalities , we can justly conclude here
that media often complicates cases by portraying their own version of the same
and insights. It can thus be argued that media on their part should be emphasising
on the case and the proceedings around it and not indulge in any judgemental
decisions

3.The involvement of jury undoubtedly was introduced for an unbiased decision


but the fact that mass is affected by external factors can’t be neglected and jury
trials should have been amended a lot earlier.

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APPENDIX

Below is a list of the useful websites that were used in the making of this assignment under the
guidance of the concerned faculty.