K.M. Nanavati Vs State Of Maharashtra


Appellant – K.M. Nanavati

Respondent – State Of Maharashtra

Decided On – 24/11/1961

Statutes Referred –

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860 – section 88, section 302, section 300 exception I
  2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1989
  3. Indian Evidence Act, 1872


  1. The accused Nanavati at the time of alleged murder, was second in command of the 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.
  2. In the same city the deceased Ahuja was doing business in automobiles in the year 1956, Agniks, who were common friends of Nanavati’s and Ahuja’s introduced and his sister to Nanavati’s. Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age at the time of his death.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 bedroom and shot him dead.
  5. 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 Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.
  6. The trial court convicted under Section 304 A of Indian Penal Code and in appeal the high court converted it into Section 302 of Indian Penal Code.
  7. So, the accuse made an appeal before supreme court and at the same time he made an application to governor under Article 161.


  1. Whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in the “heat of a moment” or whether it was a premediated murder which will determine the conviction of Nanavati?
  2. Whether special leave petition can be entertained without fulfilment of the order under Article 142?
  3. Whether the pardoning power of governor and special leave petition can be moved together?


Appellant’s Arguments

  1. 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 drive 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 doing drive alone to Ahmednagar at night, though the real purpose was to shoot himself.
  2. Nanavati drove his car to Ahuja’s office but not finding him; he drove his car to Ahuja’s flat which was opened by a servant, walked to Ahuja’s bedroom, went into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He also carried the revolver.
  3. The accused saw the deceased inside the bedroom, 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 evolver on a cabinet nearby, and threatened to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden move to grasp at the revolver envelope, when the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back.
  4. A struggle ensured between the two of them and during that struggle two shots went off accidently and hit Ahuja resulting in his death.
  5. Hence the final argument made was that the accused shot 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 amounting to murder.

Respondent’s Arguments

  1. The first contention that was raised was that the Ahuja had just came out of shower wearing towel; when his body was discovered, his towel was still intact on his body. It was neither loosen nor fallen off which was highly improbable in case of a scuffle.
  2. Moreover, after Sylvia’s confession, a calm and collected Nanavati took them to a movie hall, dropped them there and then went to his ship to retrieve the pistol, that too under a false pretext. This shows he had enough cooling time and provocation was neither grave nor sudden and that the Nanavati had planned the murder.
  3. Also, according to the testimony of Ahuja’s servant, Anjani who was present at the house during the occurrence of incidence 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.
  4. 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.


The Apex Court’s bench comprising of Subbarao, K. Das, S.K. Dayal, Raghubar held the following:

  1. The deceased seduced the wife of the accuse, she had confessed to him of her illicit intimacy with the deceased. It was natural that the accused was enraged at the conduct of deceased and had, therefore, sufficient motive to do the same.
  2. He deliberately secured the revolver on a false pretext from the ship, drove to the flat of Ahuja, entered his bedroom unceremoniously with a loaded revolver in hand and in about a few seconds thereafter came out with a revolver in his hand. The deceased was found dead in his bathroom with bullet injuries on his body. It was not disputed that the bullets that caused injuries to Ahuja emanated from the revolver that was in the hand of the accused. After the shooting, till trail in sessions court, he did not tell anybody that he shot the deceased by accident. Indeed, he confessed his guilt to the chowkidar Puransingh and practically admitted the same to his colleague Samuel. His description of the struggle in the bathroom is highly artificial and is devoid of all necessary particulars.
  3. The injuries found on the body of the deceased are consistent with the intentional shooting and the amin injuries are wholly inconsistent with accidental shooting when the victim and the assailant were in close grips. The other circumstances brought out in the evidence also establish that there could not have been any fight or struggle between the deceased and accused.
  4. The court held that the conduct of accused clearly shows that the murder was a deliberate and calculated one and the facts of the case do not attract the provisions of exceptions 1 of Section 300 of Indian Penal Code as the accused also to bring the case under general exception of Indian Penal Code by adducing evidence.
  5. In the result, the conviction of the accused under Section 302 of IPC and sentenced him of imprisonment for life.


The provision of law which was under scrutiny by the Hon’ble apex court of India did not attracted the general exceptions of law.


In conclusion it could be said that the aforementioned judgement of Supreme Court was able to grab the attention of 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 society owing to the pitful journalism towards him. The burden of proof upon the prosecution was released by the establishing the facts to utmost clarity which is indeed an essential in the process of adjudication.

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