No abstract standard of reasonableness can be laid down. What a reasonable man will do in certain circumstances depends upon the customs, manners, way of life, traditional values etc.


[Case Brief] K. M. Nanavati V/s State Of Maharashtra


Case name: K. M. Nanavati vs State Of Maharashtra

Case number: Criminal Appeal No. 195 of 1960

Court: The Hon’ble Supreme Court

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

Decided on: 24/11/1961

Relevant Act/Sections: Section 300,302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Article 136 and 142 of the Constitution of India. Section 307 of Code of Criminal Procedure,1898.



BRIEF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

1. Kevas Manekshaw Nanavati is an Indian Naval Officer second in command of the Indian Naval Ship “Mysore”. He married Sylvia in 1949 and had three children. Since the time of marriage, the couple were living at different places having regard to the exigencies of service of Nanavati. Finally, they shifted to Bombay.

2. In the same city they got to meet Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja, having a business of automobiles in Bombay. Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age at the time of his death. Nanavati owing to nature of his duty was frequently going away from Bombay in his ship, leaving his wife and children in Bombay. Gradually, friendship developed between Ahuja and Sylvia, which culminated in illicit intimacy between them.

3. On April 27, 1959, Sylvia confessed to Nanavati of her illicit intimacy with Ahuja. Enraged at the conduct of Ahuja, Nanavati went to his ship, took from the stores of the ship a semi-automatic revolver and six cartridges on a false pretext, loaded the same, drove himself to Prem Ahuja’s office. On not finding him at his workplace, he then drove to his residence. After an altercation, at his residence, two shots went off accidently and hit Ahuja. Thereafter, the accused surrendered himself to the police. Jury voted in favour of the accused. 

4. The case was referred to hon’ble High Court under Section 307 of The Code of Criminal Procedure. The Division Bench of the High Court went on to declare the accused guilty under Section 302 of IPC. An appeal was finally filed before the Supreme Court. The case was the last to be heard as a jury trial in India, as the government abolished jury trials as a result of the case.


ISSUES:

1. Whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in “the heat of the moment” or whether it was a premeditated murder?

2. Whether SLP (Special Leave Petition) can be entertained without fulfilling the order under Article 142?


RATIO OF THE COURT:

1. This appeal by special leave arises out of the judgment of the Bombay High Court sentencing Nanavati, the appellant, to life imprisonment for the murder of Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja, a businessman of Bombay.

2. Firstly, judged by its  historical  background  and properly construed, s. 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was  meant  to confer wider powers of interference on the High safeguard against  an erroneous verdict of  the jury. Thus, there was no question of the competency of interefence of High Court. The decision of this court in Ratan Rai v. State of Bihar Criminal Appeal No. 104 of 1955 assumes that such an interference is permissible if the verdict of the jury was vitiated by misdirection. 

3. The provisions of exception 1 of Section 300 were involved in the present case.The test of grave and sudden provocation is:

  • Whether a reasonable man, belonging to the same class of the society as the accused, placed in the same situation would be so provoked as to lose his self control.

  • For instance, in India words, gestures and mental background created by the previous act of the victim may also be considered.

4. Evidence was also adduced in the form of letters written by Slyvia to Ahuja and Extra Judicial Confessions were taken into account. This clearly established the relationship between the two.

5. As per the defence case, the accused was thinking of the future of his wife and children which indicates that he had not only regained his senses but also was planning for the future as he asked Ahuja if he would look out for his wife and daughter. The time lapse between the confession and murder was sufficient to regain his self-control. The mere fact that before the shooting the accused abused the deceased and the abuse provoked an equally abusive reply could not conceivably be a provocation for the murder.

6. The Court relied on the decision  of the Allahabad High Court in  Babu Lal v. State AIR 1960 All 290 applied the exception to a case where the husband who saw his wife in a compromising position with the deceased killed the latter subsequently when the deceased came, in his absence, to his house in another village to which he had moved.

7. No abstract standard of reasonableness can be laid down. What a reasonable man will do in certain circumstances depends upon the customs, manners, way of life, traditional values etc.; in short, the cultural, social and emotional background of the society to which an accused belongs. In our vast country there are social groups ranging from the lowest to the highest state of civilization. It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down any standard with precision : it is for the court to decide in each case, having regard to the relevant circumstances. It is not necessary in this case to ascertain whether a reasonable man placed in the position of the accused would have lost his self- control momentarily or even temporarily when his wife confessed to him of her illicit intimacy with another, for we are satisfied on the evidence that the accused regained his self-control and killed Ahuja deliberately.

8. The Indian law, relevant to the present enquiry, may be stated thus:

  • 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 situation in which the accused was placed would be so provoked as to lose his self-control.

  • In India, words and gestures may also, under certain circumstances, cause grave and sudden provocation to an accused so as to bring his act within the first Exception to s. 300 of the Indian Penal Code.

  • The mental background created by the previous act of the victim may be taken into consideration in ascertaining whether the subsequent act caused grave and sudden provocation for committing the offence.

  • The fatal blow should be clearly traced to the influence of passion arising from that provocation and not after the passion had cooled down by lapse of time, or otherwise giving room and scope for premeditation and calculation.

9. Bearing these principles in mind, let us look at the facts of this case. When Sylvia confessed to her husband that she had illicit intimacy with Ahuja, the latter was not present. We will assume that he had momentarily lost his self-control. But if his version is true-for the purpose of this argument we shall accept that what he has said is true-it shows that he was only thinking of the future of his wife and children and also of asking for an explanation from Ahuja for his conduct. This attitude of the accused clearly indicates that he had not only regained his self-control, but on the other hand, was planning for the future.

10. Then he drove his wife and children to a cinema, left them there, went to his ship, took a revolver on a false pretext, loaded it with six rounds, did some official business there, and drove his car to the office of Ahuja and then to his flat, went straight to the bed-room of Ahuja and shot him dead. Between 1-30 P.M., when he left his house, and 4-20 P.M., when the murder took place, three hours had elapsed, and therefore there was sufficient time for him to regain his self-control, even if he had not regained it earlier. On the other hand, his conduct clearly shows that the murder was a deliberate and calculated one. Even if any conversation took place between the accused and the deceased in the manner described by the accused-though we do not believe that-it does not affect the question, for the accused entered the bed-room of the deceased to shoot him.

11. The mere fact that before the shooting the accused abused the deceased and the abuse provoked an equally abusive reply could not conceivably be a provocation for the murder.


DECISION HELD BY COURT:

In the result, conviction of the accused under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentence of imprisonment for life passed on him by the High Court are correct, and there are absolutely no grounds for interference. The appeal stands dismissed. The SLP was dismissed by the supreme court, by majority, holding that the appellant’s SLP could not be listed for hearing unless he surrenders under Art. 142 .


Contact Us: briefcsed.org@gmail.com

©2020 by briefCASED.