Nanavati and wife Sylvia
K M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra was a 1959 Indian court case where Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a Naval Commander, was tried for the murder of Prem Ahuja, his wife's lover. The incident received unprecedented media coverage and inspired several books and movies. Nanavati, accused under section 302, was initially declared not guilty by a jury under section 302 but the verdict was dismissed by the Bombay High Court and the case was retried as a bench trial. The case was the last to be heard as a jury trial in India, as the government abolished jury trials. Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati (1925-2003), a Parsi and a commander with the Indian Navy, had settled down in Mumbai with Sylvia (1931-), his English-born wife and their two sons and a daughter. With Nanavati frequently away on assignments for long periods of time, the lonely Sylvia fell in love with Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja, a friend of Nanavati. Prem's sister Mamie Ahuja, in her testimony in court, stated that Prem had agreed to marry Sylvia, provided she divorced her husband. But this was contradicted by the letters written by Sylvia where she expressed her desire to divorce Nanavati and marry Prem, but she doubted whether Prem had the same intentions. On 27 April 1959, Nanavati returned home from one of his assignments and finding Sylvia aloof and distant, he questioned her. Sylvia, who now doubted Prem's intent to marry her, confessed about the affair to her husband. Nanavati dropped his family at the Metro Cinema, for a show he had promised to take them to, but excused himself and headed straight to confront Prem Ahuja. When Sylvia was asked in court, why she went to the theatre, leaving her agitated husband behind, she answered, "I was upset myself and I did not think clearly then. I was not indifferent to my husband killing himself... It is difficult to explain these things to children, so I took them to the cinema." Nanavati went to the Naval base, collected his pistol on a false pretext from the stores along with six cartridges, completed his official duties and proceeded to Prem Ahuja's office. On not finding him there, he went to Ahuja's flat. At Ahuja's residence, Nanavati confronted him and asked him whether he intended to marry Sylvia and accept their children. After Prem replied in the negative, three shots were fired and Prem Ahuja dropped dead. Nanavati headed straight to confess to the Provost Marshal of the Western Naval Command and on his advice, turned himself in to the Deputy Commissioner of Police. The crux of the case was whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in the "heat of the moment" or whether it was a premeditated murder. The Jury, which had only the job and power to pronounce a person as 'Guilty' or 'Not Guilty' under the charges, however, could not indict nor punish the accused. The jury in this case pronounced Nanavati not guilty under section 302 under which he was charged, with an 8-1 verdict. The sessions judge referred the case to the high court after which Nanavati was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Year: 1959 Victim: Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja
Status: Nanavati convicted
This case is historic in the sense that it gave a final blow to the jury system of adjudication