April 23, 2024


km nanavati v state of maharashtra

By Anushikha Srivastava

The author is a first-year law student at SLS Noida

This case was in the limelight for a long time for various reasons. The appellant K.M.Nanavati was a commander in Indian navy. He was charged under section 302 of Indian Penal Code for the murder of Prem Ahuja, his wife’s lover. This case is also famous as it is considered to be responsible for the demolition of the jury trials in India.

Citation: AIR1962SC605

Bench: K. Subbarao, S.K. Das, Raghubar Dayal

Petitioner: K. M. Nanavati

Respondent: State of Maharashtra

Date of judgement: 24 november 1961


Petitioner was married to a woman named Sylvia with whom he had three children. Due to his job K.M.Nanavati had to stay away from town and during that time period, Sylvia and Prem Ahuja, a friend of the petitioner started extramarital affair. When Nanavati returned and gained knowledge about the same from Sylvia, he wanted to settle things with Prem.

Petitioner dropped his family at the theatre for watching movie as they had planned earlier and then took a pistol and six bullets from his ship under false circumstances. Afterwards went to Ahuja’s office and Nanavati drove to his house after not finding him there. After confirming that Ahuja was at home from Ahuja’s servant K.M . Nanavati headed towards Ahuja;s room. And on meeting him petitioner asked the victim of whether he has any intention of marrying Sylvia to which victim responded by saying that he can’t marry every woman that I sleep with. Listening this Nanavati shot Ahuja and later confessed the crime in nearest police station.

Nanavati was charged under sec 302 and 304 part I of IPC. His case was tried in session court Bombay. And the jury decided in his favor with 8-1. Session judge didn’t agree with the same and referred the case to high court Bombay.


  • The High Court has no authority to strike down a jury’s decision on the basis of misdirection in charge under section 307(3) of the CrPC.
  • The High Court lacks jurisdiction under section 307 of the CrPC to examine the facts in order to determine the validity of the Sessions Judge’s referral.
  • Because the dead was shot under grave and unexpected temptation, the accused did not really commit murder, rather culpable homicide not amounting to murder.


High court of Bombay found K.M.Nanavati guilty stating the following reasons-

  • Under subsection (1) of 307 of CrPC session court had the authority to refer the case to high court if he is unsatisfied by jury’s decision.
  • Under subsection (3) of 307 CrPC if a high court finds a case relevant which is referred my session court then he must take the case into consideration.
  • The series of event followed by K.M.Nanavati that he dropped his family at the cinema safely then going to ship taking his pistol there he even corrected the person who wrote his name incorrectly which showed his presence of mind. And when he reached Ahuja’s place he confirmed Ahuja’s whereabouts.
  • The petitioner before approaching victim had a pistol which that he already had a intention of hurting the victim.

It was also stated that due to the vast media coverage that this case received and support of large number jury was biased and could not give a fair judgement. And so afterwards jury system was demolished in India.


This case showed that one should not take laws into his own hands and nobody get a permission to do wrong if he is being wronged. This case also portraits that even when public supports a person, he will be penalized if has done wrong providing justice to the victim.

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