KM NANAVATI vs STATE OF MAHARASHTRA Case Summary (1962 SC)

KM NANAVATI vs STATE OF MAHARASHTRA Case Summary (1962 SC)

KM NANAVATI vs STATE OF MAHARASHTRA is a landmark case in the criminal history of India. KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra has been discussed till now, even since it had been pronounced by the apex court. The judgment received a considerable amount of media attention as it involved Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a naval commander who was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover Prem Ahuja, an automobile business person in the State of Maharashtra. In this landmark judgment, the High court of Bombay reversed the judgment passed by the jury. This case was the law that was heard by a jury it was after this case when the jury system was abolished.

BENCH

K. Subbarao, SK Dayal, Raghubar, K. Das

RELEVANT PROVISIONS

Section 302, 304 of Indian Penal Code, 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

FACTS OF THE CASE

  • The commander of a navy ship ‘Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati’ was tried for the murder of the paramour of his wife, Sylvia Nanavati.
  • An Indian Naval Officer shifted to Bombay in March 1959 with his family and met Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja, a businessperson in Bombay. They met him through an old friend of Nanavati.
  • While Nanavati was on duty, Silvia started meeting Prem and they fell into an illicit relation with each other Silvia develops feelings towards Prem and asked him whether he would marry her and would take responsibility for their children, he does not give a proper reply and Silvia understands the only motive of Prem was to sleep with her.
  • This time when Nanavati came back from his duty, he found Silvia was in a strange mood and was acting strangely and was not responsive or affectionate towards him. Nanavati asked Silvia what happened she confessed to him about her illicit relationship with prem. Nanavati burst into a rage, had a sudden quarrel with Silvia and was leaving the home, but his wife stopped him because she knew he would kill himself.
  • Then in the noon, they planned to go for a movie with their kids. Nanavati dropped them at the cinema and went to his ship to take his gun and cartilage on a false pretext that he was traveling alone and needed the gun for his safety.
  • He takes the gun and arrives first at the deceased office not finding him there he went to his house on finding him there in his room he locked the door from inside and asked him whether Prem would marry Silvia and takes care of his children, Prem declines Nanavati take his gun out and fired two shot killing deceased on the spot.
  • Then Nanavati went to the police and surrendered himself. He was charged under section 302 of IPC.
  • The trial court convicted under S.304 A of IPC and, in appeal, the high court convert it into S.302 of IPC. So, the accused made an appeal before the SC and, he applied to the governor under Article 161.

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ISSUES 

Is Nanavati shot Ahuja in the “heat of the moment” or whether this was a premeditated assassination?

Is it possible to entertain SLP (Special Leave Petition) without meeting the order under Article 142?

RATIO DECIDENDI

  • In the beginning, the matter was handed over in the hands of a jury they tried Nanavati under section 302 of IPC and found him not guilty of murder and held him liable under section 304A of IPC.
  • As there was misdirection in the judgment which leads to an erroneous decision and matter was thus referred to HC. The honorable court held that the jury set out its decision under the undue influence caused because of media and other factors which were later objected to. 
  • The accused plead a defense of Exception 1 under section 300 i.e., ‘Grave and Sudden Provocation but the Honorable court held that the accused was not working under grave and sudden provocation and was ‘the master of his own understanding’ at the time of the offense and did intentional killing in cool blood while planning for the same.
  • To plead the defense of grave and sudden provocation, the following conditions must be satisfied –
    1. It must be sufficient to deprive an ordinary or a reasonable man of his self-control so he might not be considered “the master of his understanding”.
    2. The fatal blow must be traced to the passion arising from provocation.
    3. The mode of resentment must bear a reasonable relation to the provocation.
    4. There must not have been sufficient time between the occurrence of the provocation and the killing for the accused’s blood to cool. The provocation to be a valid defense under this exception must be both grave and sudden.
  • The test of the grave and sudden 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 act the same as the accused did. 
  • It is sudden when there was no time for the passion to cool down. If the act was done after the first excitement had passed away, and there was time to cool, it was a murder.
  • the accused must satisfy the court beyond reasonable doubt as the onus of proof lies on the accused, to prove his innocence, but Nanavati failed to do so.
  • The accused had made an SLP under article 136 and sent a letter of pardoning to the president at the same time.

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DECISION

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the Honorable court argued that while considering the offense the way accused dropped his wife at the cinema hall and went to his ship to acquire his weapon and then first went to the deceased office and then to his home after which asking him questions and on not getting the favorable answer shot him dead taking a very long time in which a reasonable man may come to know the nature of his act that what he was doing and the act was done after the first excitement has passed away and there was enough time to cool down. Therefore, there was sufficient time for him to regain his self-control, even if he had not regained it earlier. His conduct shows that the murder was a deliberate and calculated one in the result, the conviction of the accused under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentence of imprisonment for life passed on him by the 

High Court is correct, and there are no grounds for interference. The appeal stands dismissed.

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Ritik Rastogi

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