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  • Writer's pictureVijayant Goel

K.M. Nanavati v. State of Bombay

Mahitha Lall, Student, Vels Institute of Science, Technology & Advanced Studies, Chennai.


The case of K.M. Nanavati v. State of Bombay[1] is a landmark criminal case of 1962 decided by a bench headed by Subbarao, Das S.K. Dayal and Raghubar. In this case, the court charged Nanavati for murder under section 300 and 304 of Indian Penal Code. But the electors in rife underpinned Nanavati under exception 1 and exception 4 of culpable homicide owing to the fact that Nanavati’s wife Sylvia provoked him, which led to the murder of Sylvia’s lover Prem Ahuja. The issue was, therefore, whether Nanavati committed culpable homicide or whether it was a premeditated murder. Under section 299 of Indian Penal Code Nanavati was not guilty and was demobilized by the Bombay High court, and the case was subsequently retried on a bench trial. Another key reason that this case was pertinent was on account of the execution of a jury trial, which also happened to be the last one.


K.M. Nanavati was a Parsi who was a commander in the Indian Navy and had defrayed in Bombay with his wife Sylvia. Subsequently, with Nanavati routinely furlong due to his extensive duties, Sylvia fell in love with Prem Ahuja, a Sindhi boon companion of Nanavati. In an attestation in court, Prem’s sister Mamie Ahuja, affirmed that Prem had concurred to take the plunge with Sylvia as she wanted to divorce her husband. However, this was rebutted by the epistle written by Sylvia, where she revealed her craving to wed with Prem. But she had hesitancy whether Prem had the same intention or not. But subsequently, in the former scenario, Nanavati would have been charged under Indian Penal Code for culpable homicide with an utmost prosecution of ten years. This is because he invoked exception 1 and 4 of section 300 of Indian Penal Code. And since the later scenario in the trial tells that Nanavati would be charged under section 300 of Indian Penal Code for murder with life imprisonment. However, he was treated not guilty under public underpin and moreover his defence team asserted that it’s a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It was asserted that it was a premeditated murder done under provocation and so under the apex court circumstances, Nanavati was held not guilty under section 299 of Indian Penal Code, by the former governor Vijaya Lakshmi. But the later trial in the Supreme court deemed veracious to High Court judgement and charged Nanavati under section 304 and 300 of Indian Penal Code for murder.


There was a presumption of murder by Nanavati of his wife’s lover Prem Ahuja and was convicted under section 302 of Indian Penal Code. The trial was done under section 302 and 304 of Indian Penal Code by a special jury trial under session court by the session judge. Since Nanavati was not found guilty under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code by the session court and was acquitted. But the case was then held by the high court of Bombay where Nanavati was charged under section 302 and 304 of Indian Penal Code with life imprisonment. Later, it was latterly held that the resolution of the High Court is congruous under the perforation of law and there is no requisite obligation can be done by the session judge in between the injunction of High Court. But the High Court found Nanavati guilty under section 302 and the same verdict was passed by the Supreme Court of Bombay. Meanwhile, Vijaya Lakshmi the former governor of Bombay, using the imperium of Article 161 of Indian Constitution conducted Nanavati should be acquitted from charges of Section 302 of Indian Penal Code. But a conflict arose between the judiciary and the executive regarding Article 161 and it was resolved that Article 161 didn’t yield with the intuition when a case was controversial in the Supreme Court. Subsequently, jury trial was abolished after this case except for Parsis. The plausible ripostes of merely suggestive questions are as follow:

1. Was the court’s decision appropriate?

The court’s accord in Nanavati case was appropriate of charging the offender under Indian Penal Court. Subsequently, Nanavati wasn’t found guilty under the perforation of the public intention and the then former governor Vijaya Lakshmi. But as per the law stated Nanavati murdered Prem Ahuja. And so, the supreme court found the succession of High Court of Bombay of charging Nanavati under section 302 of Indian Penal Code was an appropriate accord in the perforation of the law.

2. Does this decision change/conform with existing law?

Obviously, the accord streamed in the Nanavati case conform to the existing law. Thus, the former apex court attempted to acquit Nanavati in the certitudes of exception 1 and exception 4 of section 302 of Indian Penal Code. That the murder of Prem Ahuja was done under provocation by Nanavati. But, the later high court of Bombay accord that as per section 302 and 304 of Indian Penal Code, Nanavati has done crime which was faultless under the perforation of the Supreme Court as well. Since several other cases have been dealt with under agnate circumstances.

3. Was the reasoning consistent with the previous reasoning in similar cases?

Yes, the reasoning in Nanavati case law was in reconcilable with similar cases like Rama Pasi and another vs state of UP, 2019. In which the court charged the accused under section 302 of Indian Penal Code with life imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 rupees.

4. Is it likely that the decision will significantly influence existing law?

Yes, may be the accord which were assembled during Nanavati case could influence the existing law. Like it may influence section 307 of the Criminal Procedure Code that is to attempt to murder. It may be like, that person who attempts to murder of any person deliberately or undeliberate which likely to cause demise or any bodily laceration of that person shall be imprisoned with 10 years of imprisonment.

5. Did the court adequately justify its reasoning?

Yes, the court tolerably justifies its reasoning. Since there was some omission of laws which could be dealt with to make the decision more effective and appropriate in order to take the trope and brace of the people to underpin law. But even though there was no brace of the people, Nanavati was still put to life imprisonment under the perforation of law.

6. Was its interpretation of the law appropriate?

Yes, interpretation of the law is appropriate in every criminal case. Because the laws of our nation keep changing and amending. There are several muddles in our nation that requires interpretation of the law. Like under which circumstances what kind of law may appertain. Concerning with Nanavati case and other similar cases section 300, 302, 307 of Indian Penal Code has been appertain. Subsequently, for each case, Kosher prosecution delineated under that discrete sections are appertain.

7. Was the reasoning logical/constant?

The arguments in Nanavati case seems to be more likely to be constant than logical. Because as per the certitudes affirmed, the murder of any person should be charged under section 300 and 302 of Indian Penal Code similarly as the high court of Bombay in Nanavati case resolves. Interpretation is requisite under such state of affairs where there is need to consider about culpable homicide section 299 or if any other laws have appertained such as section 307, 417, 418 (1) etc. of Criminal Procedure Code. Therefore, as the law plights, the decree proceeded accordingly. It was constant as the law plights.

8. Did the court consider all/omit some issues and arguments? And if there was an omission, does this weaken the merit of the decision?

The session judge in the session case of Nanavati paramountcy employ section 299, 300, and 302 of Indian Penal Code. Other laws were appertained but were not scouted audibly. Somewhat, it can be said that those laws were omitted. Such laws embrace, section 307 of Criminal Procedure Code which refers, attempt to murder and 304 which refers, whoever commits murder not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be prosecuted with two years of imprisonment and fine. Under this section, Nanavati could be charged with murder because he was having cognition of such crime to be happened. Other sections such as 418(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which refers, execution of sentence of imprisonment and 410 of Criminal Procedure Code which refers, the judicial magistrate can review any case by himself. Such omission of laws dealt with the debilitation of Nanavati case. Subsequently, the omission of the above-mentioned laws debilitates the elector’s scheme to underpin justice.

9. What are the policy implications of the decision?

The policy implication of Nanavati case was that the former apex court acquitted Nanavati under section 299 and 304 of Indian Penal Code. Section 299 refers, culpable homicide and Section 304 refers to, whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be prosecuted with imprisonment of two years and fine. But the later high court of Bombay, flotsam the earlier acquittal and charged life imprisonment to Nanavati under section 300 and 302 of Indian Penal Code for amounting to murder of Prem Ahuja.

10. Are there alternative approaches which could lead to more appropriate public policy in this area?

I don’t think that there are any alternative approaches which could lead to public policy from Nanavati case. This incident acquired unrivalled media coverage and had inclined several tomes and films such as Achanak (1973), Rustum (2016) and the web series The Verdict (2019). And subsequently, this case can give one appropriate policy that the laws of this democratic nation are one and alike for all and sundry in the perforation of the justice.


This case concludes that law is compeer to each and everyone in this federation. Every venture of a person is perceived under the perforation of the law. Even though the federation is against or is on the favour of any venture of a person. But still, that person will be sentenced under the law. Those who violate the law, whether through provocation or by flaw will be prosecuted by law. Similar to Nanavati case, in which Nanavati murdered Prem Ahuja under provocation by his wife Sylvia. The federation, the then former governor Vijaya Lakshmi and the session court underpinned Nanavati that he did the murder under provocation and not amounting to murder. But the High Court and the Supreme Court obvious that Nanavati should be charged under section 300 and 302 of Indian Penal Code. Similarly like this case, the law of the federation obvious that a person has done the crime and should be prosecuted. Even though the federation, in general, underpinned that person. But the law of land obvious a person for his actions. The supreme law of the land obvious liberty to live and life to every soul (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution). And if any mortal tries to violates that virtue of any sort, he shall be prosecuted under the perforation of the law. No third person or any other mortal can summon the supreme law. And so, it is requisite that we all should proceed with a new scheme that no mortal should violate law and should appreciate law and folk with a gaiety.


[1] K.M. Nanavati v. State of Bombay, AIR 1961 SC 112.

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