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3 shots that shook the nation: Know all about the Nanavati case on which Akshay’s ‘Rustom’ is based

Seldom is it seen that few legal cases have such a huge impact on judiciary so much so that they change the entire course. One such case was the K.M. Nanavati Case vs State Of
India TV Entertainment Desk New Delhi August 10, 2016 22:07 IST
India TV Entertainment Desk

Seldom is it seen that few legal cases have such a huge impact on judiciary so much so that they change the entire course. One such case was the K.M. Nanavati Case vs State Of Maharashtra of the year 1959. The case is now decades old but its relevance doesn’t refuse to fade away.

It was the battle of Commander Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati which highlighted terms like media trail and later went on to prove that maybe influencing the ones in power is not that difficult. The case also shed light to the truth hidden behind the elite class of the then Bombay. It revealed that the smiling faces are full of deceit and made a sensitive topic of extra marital affair a topic for household conversations.

Revolving around this legendary case is Akshay Kumar’s next ‘Rustom’. The movie also stars Ileana D Cruz and Esha Gupta in pivotal roles. With the movie releasing this Friday, here is all you should know about the infamous case which changed the course of Indian judiciary.

Cdr Nanavati, a Parsi, lived with his wife Sylvia in Mumbai. Sylvia was having an extra marital affair with Nanavati’s friend of 15 years Prem Ahuja. On learning about the affair he went to Prem’s residence and shot three bullets at him (as he came out of the bathroom dressed in a towel).

On the day of the incident, Nanavati came home to see Sylvia depressed. When he asked her what happened, Sylvia accepted her affair with Prem. An angry Nanavati then dropped Sylvia with their kids to Metro Cinema and went to the Naval base. He collected his service pistol on false pretext and headed straight to Prem’s office. On not finding him there he headed to his house and confronted him. Nanavati asked Prem if he would marry Sylvia and accept their children.

Court records have it that Prem answered in the negative after which Nanavati fired three bullets, killing him. After the incident, Nanavati turned himself into the Deputy Commissioner of police.

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The case got murkier when Prem’s sister Mamie Ahuja alleged that her brother’s death was a premeditated murder. On the other hand, Nanavati’s lawyers said that Prem’s murder happened in ‘heat of the moment’ and hence the Commander should be tried with culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The argument between the premeditated murder and the heat of the moment action was the crux of this case.

The defence argued when Prem asked Nanavati if he would marry all the girls he has slept with; the latter lost his cool and got in a scuffle with him. It was during this scuffle that the gun went off killing Prem. On the other hand the prosecution argued that if there was a brawl, how come Prem’s towel was intact? They also told the court that on knowing about the affair, a calm Nanavati dropped his family to the theatre so the provocation was not grave or sudden.

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The case was first heard in Bombay session court which pronounced him not guilty under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. This judgement was challenged by Mamie Ahuja in the Bombay high court. The HC agreed with the prosecution that the murder was premeditated and sentenced Nanavati to life imprisonment. On 24 November 1961, the Supreme Court of India upheld the conviction.

This was probably the first case which saw a media trail. Weekly tabloid Blitz run by R.K. Karinjia, a Parsi himself, openly supported Nanavati. Blitz ran articles publicising Nanavati as a man representing the ideal middle class of Bombay. On the other hand it painted Prem in colours of a playboy. As a result of this media trail, Nanavati rose as a hero and Prem the villain. During the trail, Ahuja towels and Nanavati’s revolvers were sold as toys.

Rallies were held on the streets of Bombay in support of Nanavati which persuaded Mamie to forgive him. She gave her assent for his pardon in writing after which Nanavati was released from jail after three years.

Nanavati then migrated to Canada with Sylvia and his two sons and one daughter. He died in 2003.