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Case analysis K.M Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra

Author: Bhavya

Student, The ICFAI University, Dehradun

Citation – AIR 1962 SC 605

Petitioner/Appellant – K.M Nanavati

Respondent : State of Maharashtra

Background of the case

The judgement given in the case of KM Nanavati v State of Maharashtra is landmark not only because of the publicity it gained through media but due to the interpretation of penal laws it involved. This case still managed to occupy a separate position in the mind of the people as this case is able to connect with the people because of publicity and also because of the portrayal of the character of K.M Nanavati. This case is also known as last jury trial case because after this case the government abolished the jury trial as there were lot of drawbacks in this system which was clearly visible in K.M Nanavati case and later on the Bombay High Court had dismissed the verdict given by jury.This case is considered one of the important case not because of the popularity it received by the media but because of the legal parameters it tried to cover like exception under murder and also regarding the power of jury trial.

Facts of the case

1.The accused K.M Nanavati who is appellant in the present case was commandant of the Indian Naval ship . He married Sylvia in 1949 in the registry office at England. They had three children two boys and one girl .

2.Because of the job of Nanavati the couple were living at different place after that they shifted to Bombay that is the same city where Ahuja who is the deceased in this case was carrying his automobile business and living with his sister.

3.In 1956 in a party Nanavati and Sylvia were introduced to Ahuja and his sister through a common friend of them.

4.Due to the requirement of his job Nanavati had to go away from Bombay leaving his wife and children behind at home in Bombay. As most of her time she would leave alone and feel lonely Sylvia fell in love with Ahuja and developed illicit relationship with him.

5.After April 18, 1959 when Nanavati returned from his ship and tried to show affection to his wife he found that his wife was not so responsive as she used to be earlier also did not shown any affection so Nanavati was little tensed and asked his wife whether she had developed illicit relationship with Ahuja and in reply she did not speak merely shook her head in order to show that she was involved in illicit relationship with him.

6.After that Nanavati drove his car to cinema and left the children and his wife there and then drove towards his ship from where he obtained revolver and six rounds by giving false excuse that he is carrying it for some other activity and then put that revolver in a brown envelope and drove to Ahuja’s office where he got to know that Ahuja was not in his office he was in his house and then went straight towards the flat of Ahuja.

7.On reaching his flat he first confirmed from the servant whether his master was there or not .On finding that Ahuja was there in his bedroom he went there with brown envelope which had the revolver.

8.Nanavati asked Ahuja whether he would marry Sylvia and look after his children then he replied that he does not marry every woman whom he sleeps with .The accused became enraged and put that revolver on the cabinet and threatened to thrash the deceased.

9.When Ahuja was trying to grasp the envelope which was there on the cabinet a fight started between the two and during that scuffle by mistake two shots went off and hit Ahuja resulting in death.

10. Initially the accused was not declared guilty under section 302 by jury with verdict 8:1.

11. Then the case was referred to the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay which declared the accused guilty under section 302 of Indian Penal.Code.

Issue raised

1.Whether Nanavati had pre planned for the murder or it was in heat of moment out of sudden and grave provocation?

2.Whether the High Court had the power to set aside a jury’s decision.?

Contention of the appellant

The argument from the side of appellant after hearing Sylvia confession was that the appellant never had intention to kill Ahuja he only wanted to kill himself and wanted that his wife Sylvia should live happily with the person she loves the most . Therefore in order to find out the true intention of Ahuja he dropped his wife and children to cinema hall and without letting them know his real intention then he drove to his ship in car and by citing some false reason that he needed revolver because he was going alone that night to Ahmednagar but his true intention was to shoot himself not Ahuja. First he drove to Ahuja’s office but when he didn’t find him he drove his car to Ahuja’s flat with brown envelope containing revolver .[1]When Nanavati saw Ahuja inside the bedroom he asked Ahuja whether he would marry Sylvia and he replied that he didn’t marry every woman he sleeps with. This statement provoked nanavati and he threatened to thrash Ahuja .When Ahuja tried to grab that envelope which was kept on the cabinet a scuffle erupted between the two and during that Nanavati accidently shot Ahuja.

After that nanavati drove his car to the police station and surrendered himself so the response of Nanavati was under grave and sudden provocation as any loving and caring husband would get enraged on hearing such statement and would try to smash the person who say so . Although he committed the offence but it would not amount to murder it would be simply culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Contention of the respondent

The first point which was put forth by the learned counsel of respondent is that how is it possible or it makes highly inprobable that during the scuffle the towel would remain intact on the body of deceased and this rasies suspicion on the intention of the appellant .[2]Moreover after Sylvia’s confession Nanavati first dropped his wife and children at the cinema hall and then drove to his ship add took his revolver by citing false reason and then drove to Ahuja’s office . On finding that Ahuja was not in his office he drove directly to his flat . This shows that he had enough time to cool down and the provocation was not grave and sudden it was premediated plan . If the grave and provocation was sudden then he would directly go to Ahuja’s flat and would kill him with any weapon he would have not by premediated plan.

As per the testimony of Ahuja’s servant Anjani who was a natural witness testified that there was four shots consecutively in quick succession and the entire event occurred in less than one minute and this could not be possible with scuffle. The deputy commissioner of police testified that when Nanavati confessed in the police station he corrected the spelling mistake and thereby showing that he was not dazed and in proper mental state .

Hon’ble High Court Judgement

The two judge bench of the high court of Maharashtra held that Nanavati was liable under Section 302 of IPC as he had committed the pre Planned murder of Ahuja as the evidences like he first drop his wife and children at cinema hall and then went to ship to take revolver all these events show that it was pre planned murder not under grave and sudden provocation.[3]

Hon’ble Supreme Court Judgement

The honourable Supreme Court held that the case dont fall under the exception of Grave and sudden provocation because at the time of the confession of Sylvia about the adultery Nanavati was not present and there was a time gap of three hours between the time of confession and the time of killing that do not show that the provocation was Grave and it was enough for cooling the anger of Nanavati .[4]The Hon’ble apex court held that the case would not come under the exception as there was premeditation plan and also the grave and sudden provocation was absent in the present case. The honourable Supreme Court noted the following points

1.The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that if the judge finds the jury decision contrary to the provisions of law then they can refer the case to High Court under section 307(1) of crpc.[5]

2. After reviewing all the evidence the honourable Court was of the view that the appellant after proper calculation planned the murder of Ahuja and it’s clearly evident from the conduct of the appellant that he first drove his car to theatre left there his wife and children and then on false pretext took revolver and shoot Ahuja. After his wife confessed to her infidelity to him he had plenty of time to cool down and therefore the case did not fall under grave and sudden provocation.


The case of K.M Nanavati is one of the landmark case in the Indian judiciary and this case is often associated with the test for grave and sudden provocation. This case received high media coverage which impacted the jury’s decision. The decision given by the court was rational based on the interpretation of penal statutes not influenced by media and it was feared so the case is highly important and cited in many recent cases of today and have not lost its relevance .


[1] ibid [2] Rachit Garg K M Nanavati v.State of Maharashtra , Dec 20,2021 [3] Abhinav Shukla K M Nanavati v.State of Maharashtra [4] Rachit Garg K M Nanavati v.State of Maharashtra , Dec 20,2021 [5] ibid

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