K.M.NANAVATI VERSUS STATE OF MAHARASHTRA


CITATION: 1962 AIR 605
COURT: Supreme Court of India
BENCH: Subbarao, K.Das, S.K.Dayal, Raghubar
APPELLANT: K.M. Nanavati
RESPONDENT: State of Maharashtra
BRIEF FACTS:
Appellant, Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati , a commander in the Indian Navy was charged for
murder of deceased Prem Ahuja under section 302 and 304, part 1 of IPC. When the appellant
was away for his work, his wife, Sylvia, nurtured an illicit relationship with Mr. Ahuja, a friend
of Nanavati.
On 27th April 1959 , Nanavati returned from one of his long voyages. When he came home, his
wife seemed to be behaving strangely and was not responsive or affectionate to him. Sensing
something, he asked, to which Sylvia confessed about her affair with Ahuja. That evening,
Nanavati dropped Sylvia (wife) and their two children at a cinema hall and went to confront
Ahuja. He first went to his ship, collected his pistol on a false pretext from the stores along with
six bullets, completed his official duties and continued for Prem Ahuja’s office. On not finding
him there, he made his way to Ahuja’s home where he found Ahuja. There was a verbal
confrontation between the two men. After the confrontation, there was an altercation after which
three shots were fired and Prem Ahuja dropped dead. Nanavati headed straight to confess to the
Provost Marshal of the Western Naval Command and later turned himself over to the Deputy
Commissioner of Police.
The jury found him not guilty of murder which did not find favour with the Sessions Judge and
he referred the case to Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court dismissed the Jury’s
decision and convicted Nanavati under section 302 and 304 Part 1 of IPC.
Nanavati filed an appealed before the Supreme Court.
The issue of the case was whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in the “heat of the moment” or whether it
was a premeditated murder which will determine the conviction of Nanavati.

ARGUMENT OF THE PETITIONER:
The contention put forth by the counsel of Nanavati was that after hearing Sylvia’s confession,
Nanavati wanted to kill himself, but Sylvia managed to calm him down. Sylvia did not tell him
whether Ahuja wanted to marry her or not, he intended to find it out himself. So, he dropped his
wife and two children at the cinema hall and 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 which 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 cabinet 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 his death. After the shooting the
accused went back to his car and drove it to the police station where he surrendered himself.
Hence the accused shot at the deceased under grave and sudden provocation, and therefore even
if he had committed an offence, it would not be murder but only culpable homicide not
amounting to murder.
ARGUMENT OF THE RESPONDENT:
The first contention that was raised was that Ahuja had just come out of the shower wearing
towel. When his body was discovered, his towel was still intact on his body. It had neither
loosened nor fallen off which was highly improbable in case of a scuffle. Moreover, after
Sylvia’s confession, a calm and collected Nanavati took them to a movie hall, dropped them
there and then went to his shop to retrieve his pistol, that too under a false pretext. This shows he
had enough cooling time and provocation was neither grave nor sudden and that Nanavati had
planned the murder. Moreover, according to the testimony of Ahuja’s servant, Anjani, who was
present at the house during the occurrence of the incident and so, was a natural witness, testified
that there were four shots consecutively in quick succession and the entire event occurred in less
than a minute thereby ruling out scuffle. Nanavati walked out of Ahuja’s residence, without
explaining to his sister Mamie, who was present in another room of the flat that it was an
accident. The deputy commissioner of police testified that Nanavati confessed that he had shot
dead Ahuja and even corrected the misspelling of his name in the police record thereby showing
Nanavati was not dazed.

JUDGMENT:
Relying on the principle of presumption that accused is innocent until proven guilty, the higher
judiciary went through thorough examination of the witnesses as per the provisions of the
Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure. Both the parties were given equal and sufficient
chance with the Burden of Proof primarily being on the prosecution. In the light of contentions
raised, arguments advanced and evidence adduced, the Supreme Court upheld the punishment
granted by the High Court of Bombay and convicted him under Section 302 of the Indian Penal
Code.
CONCLUSION:
The aforementioned judgment was able to grab the attention of the nation owing to the fact that
the crime of adultery had given a birth to the crime of murder not amounting to culpable
homicide. The accused moreover was a decorated officer of Indian Navy and such crime
committed by him got accepted by the society owing to the pitiful journalism towards him. The
burden of proof upon the prosecution was released by establishing the facts to utmost clarity
which is indeed an essential in the process of adjudication. Also, referring the case to higher
judiciary and jury being erroneous on point of law was something that pointed out amount of
corruption in judiciary resultant of which was abolition of jury system in succeeding Criminal
procedure.