KM Nanavati Vs State of Maharashtra – Case Summary

Author- Tanvi Suri ,Jindal Global Law School 


K. M. Nanavati vs State Of Maharashtra on 24 November, 1961


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






– Appellant, Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a commander in the Indian Navy was charged for the murder of deceased Prem Ahuja under sections 302 and 304, part 1 of IPC. When the appellant was away for his work, his wife, Sylvia, nurtured an illicit relationship with Mr Ahuja, a friend of Nanavati. Nanavati married Sylvia in 1949 in the registry office at Portsmouth, England they had 3 children by the marriage, a boy aged nine and half years, a girl of 5 and a half years and another boy aged 3 years. Since the marriage commenced, the couple was living in different places because of the nature of the job in Nanavati. After all, they finally shifted to Bombay.

– Where they met Prem Ahuja and his sister through the Agniks the common friend of Ahuja and Nanavati. As a Naval officer, Nanavati was frequently going away from Bombay on his ship leaving his wife and children behind. On 27th April 1959, Nanavati returned from one of his long voyages. When he came home, his wife seemed to be behaving strangely and was not responsive or affectionate to him. Sensing something, he asked, to which Sylvia confessed about her affair with Ahuja.

– Later that evening, Nanavati dropped Sylvia (wife) and their 3 children at a cinema hall and went to confront Ahuja. He first went to his ship, collected hissemi-automatic revolver along with six bullets put them in the brown envelope on a false pretext, completed his official duties and continued for Prem Ahuja’s office. On not finding him there, he made his way to Ahuja’s home where he found Ahuja in a towel and shut the door from inside.

– There was a verbal confrontation between the two men wherein Nanavati asked Ahuja thatwould he marry Sylvia and care for his children. Ahuja replied, “Am I to marry every woman I sleep with?” After this confrontation, there was an altercation after which three shots were fired and Prem Ahuja dropped dead. Nanavati headed straight to confess to the Provost Marshal of the Western Naval Command and later surrendered himself to the Deputy Commissioner of Police. 


Whether the accused shot Ahuja in grave and sudden provocation i.e “heat of the moment”or whether it was a premeditated murder?


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 drove his car to his ship, as he wanted to get medicine for his sick dog.

2. He represented to the authorities on the ship, that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the stores of the ship as he was going to drive alone to Ahmednagar by night, though the real purpose was to shoot himself. On receiving the revolver and six cartridges, he put it inside a brown envelope.

3. Then he drove his car to Ahuja’s office, and not finding him there, he drove 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.

4. He also carried with him the envelope containing the revolver. 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 revolver on a cabinet nearby, and threatened to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden move to grasp at the envelope when the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back.

    5. A struggle ensued between the two and during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja resulting in his death. After the shooting, the accused went back to his car and drove it to the police station where he surrendered himself.

    6. Hence the accused shot at 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 not amounting to murder.


    1. The first contention that was raised was that Ahuja had just come out of the shower wearing towel. When his body was discovered, his towel was still intact on his body. It had neither loosened 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 shop to retrieve his pistol, that too under a false pretext. This shows he had enough cooling time and provocation was neither grave nor sudden and that Nanavati had planned the murder.

    3. Moreover, according to the testimony of Ahuja’s servant, Anjani, who was present at the house during the occurrence of the incident and so, was a natural witness, testified that there were 3 shots consecutively in quick succession and the entire event occurred in less than a minute thereby ruling out scuffle.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.


    C. The jury found him not guilty of murder which did not find favour with the Sessions Judge and he referred the case to the Bombay High Court.

    B. The Bombay High Court dismissed the Jury’s decision and convicted Nanavati under sections 302 and 304 Part 1 of IPC.

    C. Nanavati filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld that this was a clear case of premeditated murder and concurred with the decision of the High Court and sentenced him to life imprisonment for culpable homicide amounting to murder.


    Under exception 1 to section 300 of IPC, culpable homicide does not amount to murder if the following conditions are fulfilled:        

    1. The deceased must give provocation to the accused;      
    2. Provocation must be grave and sudden;
    3. Provocation must have deprived the accused of his power of self-control;
    4. He must have killed the deceased during the continuance of such deprivation;
    5. Provocation must result in either the death of the person who gave the provocation or of any other person by mistake/accident.

    The Court further stated that the test of “grave and sudden” provocation is whether a reasonable man, belonging to the same class of society as the accused, placed in the same situation as the accused, would be so provoked so as to lose his self-control. The fatal blow must be traced to the influence of passion and the loss of self-control. It must not be after the accused has had time to cool down otherwise it gives room for premeditation and calculation.

    After looking at the facts of the case, the Court arrived at the decision that not only had the accused/appellant gained self-control but he was also thinking about the future of his family.  He had sufficient time to cool down after his wife confessed her infidelity to him. His conduct was clearly deliberate and calculated. The Court thus held that the facts of this case did not attract the provisions of exception 1 to section 300 of IPC.


    My firm stance on this case is that it was a premeditated and calculated murder, and I stand by the conviction of the commander.  

    – Acquiring a revolver on a false pretext gives us enough “reason to believe” that he was aware firing the bullets was very well a possibility.  

    – The “burden of proof” was on Nanavati to prove his innocence to the extent that there is no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person. In my opinion, the defence was unable to prove Nanavati innocent beyond any reasonable doubt.  

    – The towel that Ahuja was wearing was intact on his body and had neither loosened nor fallen off. In the case of a scuffle, it is highly improbable that the towel would have stayed intact. Hence, it rules out the scuffle.  

    – After Sylvia’s confession, a calm and collected Nanavati dropped his family at the theatre, drove to his naval base and according to the Navy log, had acquired a gun and rounds, under a false pretext. This indicated there was enough time to cool down, hence, the provocation was neither grave nor sudden and Nanavati had the murder planned. 

    – If I just look at the facts of the case and the pieces of evidence presented ignoring that Nanavati was a designated naval commander who belonged to the prestigious Parsi community in Bombay, I strongly agree that all the evidence clearly points out he had the intent to kill Prem Ahuja, he planned and deliberated it and then shot him in cold blood. After which he went to Officer John Lobo and confessed his crime.  

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