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10 Facts about Nanavati Case: A murder that India never forgot

Three-bullets that shook the nation

Nanavati vs State was a murder case which shook the nation. As Bombay Daily Blitz had quoted then ‘Three bullets that shook the nation’.

The background of a full story

An Indian Naval Officer, Kamas Maneckshaw Nanavati, was settled in Mumbai with his wife and two children. His work required him to be away from his home for long periods of time. Meanwhile, his wife got into an affair with his friend Prem Ahuja. Ahuja rejected Sylvia’s (Nanavati’s wife) wish to marry him.

Nanavati had shot three bullets on Ahuja. Pixabay
Nanavati had shot three bullets on Ahuja. Pixabay

When got to know, the Naval Officer was enraged (however, he did not show it). He proceeded to the Naval Docks, withdrawing his pistol. After which, he went to Ahuja’s flat and shot him.

The case had received mass media coverage. It has also inspired many books and films. Here are top 10 facts you should know about the Nanavati case.

1. Nanavati was initially declared not guilty by a jury.

Accused under section 302 (for murder), Nanavati was declared ‘not guilty’ by the jury, with an 8-1 vote. However, Bombay High Court dismissed the verdict and the case was continued by a bench.

2. Nanavati case is known to be among the last cases which were heard as jury trials.

After the Nanavati case, the Government of India abolished jury trials from the judicial system. However, for their Matrimonial Disputes, Parsis still have Jury Trials.

3. This case led to a dispute between Parsi and Sindhi communities.

Since Nanavati was Parsi, and Prem Ahuja Sindhi, this case had tensed the relations between the two communities.

Nanavati was backed by the Parsi community. Wikimedia commons
Nanavati was backed by the Parsi community. Wikimedia Commons

4. Vijaylakshmi Pandit, the then Governor of Bombay, had pardoned Nanavati.

Newly appointed Governor, Vijaylakshmi Pandit had received a mercy petition of Bhai Pratap. Bhai Pratap was a Sindhi. Vijaylakshmi Pandit had negotiated a truce between the two communities.

Saying Bhai Pratap could be pardoned, only after Nanavati was pardoned. This way both the communities got what they wanted.

5. Nanavati had left for Canada after the case.

Soon after Nanavati was pardoned by the Government, he left for Canada with his two children and wife. He was never heard of again. He is known to have died in 2003, while Sylvia is still alive.

6. Bombay Daily Blitz, a tabloid newspaper, had supported Nanavati overwhelmingly.

Throughout the trial, the newspaper which has not been published since the 90s had supported the cause of Nanavati. Its price was 25 paisa, however, the tabloid was being sold at 2 rupees per copy then.

The case was an onset of senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani. Wikimedia commons
The case was an onset of senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani. Wikimedia commons

7. The case was an onset of senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani.

A young lawyer then, Jethmalani, had assisted the prosecution at the request of Mamie Ahuja. He came into the limelight for the first time due to the case.

8. Nanavati was known to be an upright, moral and patriotic officer.

Nanavati had confessed the crime to Provost Marshal of the Western Naval Command. After which, he surrendered to the Deputy Commissioner of Police. He did not have any criminal history.

9. The case has inspired the modern-day film, Rustom.

It has also inspired other Bollywood movies, plays, and books. Some of them being Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke (1963), Achanak (1973) and The Death of Mr. Love (2002) which was written by Indra Sinha.

10. Rumors say Nanavati would not have killed Ahuja if he had accepted his offer to marry Sylvia.

Before shooting Ahuja, Nanavati had asked him if he would marry Sylvia and take care of the two children. Ahuja refused. Some say Nanavati had then deduced that Ahuja was using his wife and wasn’t ‘in love’ with her. Hence he shot Ahuja.

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