K. M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra – Case Summary

Author: Megha Garg

Equivalent citations:

1962 AIR 605, 1962 SCR Supl. (1) 567


Subbarao, K


K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra, a landmark case in India’s criminal history, has been a topic debated as ever since. This decision took its place the moment it was pronounced. This case was the last case to be tried in India as a jury trial since the government abolished the jury trials in India as a result of that case. As per Section 302 of the IPC states the  Murder Punishment, that, anyone who kills another person shall be sentenced with death, or [capital punishment], and shall also be liable for fines.

Facts of the case

In March 1959, Kevas Manekshaw Nanavati (Petitioner) , an Indian Naval Officer, moved with his family to Bombay, and met Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja, a Bombay businessman. While out of Bombay for his service, he formed an illicit relationship with Prem Ahuja through Sylvia, his wife. When she opened with her friendship with Ahuja, he was faced with his wife’s confession then. He also went to his ship to procure a loaded pistol in the heat of his pain, and took himself to the office of Prem Ahuja. He then went to his residence if he didn’t find him at his place of work. Following an altercation, two shots unintentionally went off at his residence and struck Ahuja. Jury voted the accused in favour. Pursuant to section 304 of The Code of Criminal Procedure, the case was referred to Hon’ble high court. The High Court Division Bench went on to declare the accused culpable under IPC Section 302. The Supreme Court finally handed down an appeal. The Court of Appeal held that misdirection’s were in the court of the session.

Issues of the Case

  • Is Nanavati shot Ahuja in the “heat of the moment” or whether this was a premeditated assassination?
  • If it’s possible to entertain SLP (Special Leave Petition) without meeting the order under Article 142?


The court held that the accused’s actions clearly demonstrated that the murder committed by him was a deliberate one and the facts of the case did not attract the clause of Exception I of section 300 of the IPC as the accused did not put the case under General Exception of the IPC. Consequently , the court found Nanavati guilty under section 302 of the IPC and sentenced him imprisonment for life.

JURY VERDICT:-  Nanavati(Petitioner) was pronounced as not guilty by the jury in the Greater Bombay Sessions Court, with an 8-1 decision. The acquittal was found unfair by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ratilal Bhaichand Mehta (the Sessions Judge) and referred the matter to the High Court.

HIGH COURT VERDICT:- The High Court dismissed the jury verdict on this case.

SUPREME COURT VERDICT:- The SC upheld the High Court’s ruling, for the following reasons:

  • According to the case of the prosecution, the accused was aware about his wife’s future and a child showing that he had not only recovered his senses, but also prepared for the future.
  • The lapse of time between confession and murder was enough to restore its self-control.
  • The simple fact that the deceased was abused and the violence prompted an equally abusive reaction before the shooting of the accused could not possibly be a provocation to the murder.