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Case Study:The Last Case Of Jury System Of India

This case is one of the landmark judgements of India which received unprecedented attention of the media as this case involves Kavas Manekshaw Nanavati, a naval commander who was tried for committing the murder of his wife's lover, Mr. Prem Ahuja. Initially, Nanavati was declared not guilty but later the verdict was dismissed by Bombay High Court and the case was tried under bench trial.
This was the last case to be heard as the jury trial in India because as the result of this case, the government abolished the jury trials in India.

Facts of the case:
The accused, Nanavati, at the time of the alleged murder, was 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 was living in different places, Finally, they shifted to Bombay.
     
  • In the same city the deceased Ahuja was doing business in automobiles and in the year 1956, Agniks, who were common friends of Nanavati's and Ahujas, introduced Ahuja and his sister to Nanavati's. Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age at the time of his death.
     
  • Nanavati, as a Naval Officer, was frequently going away from Bombay in his ship, leaving his wife and children in Bombay.
     
  • Gradually, the friendship developed between Ahuja and Sylvia, which culminated in illicit intimacy between them.
     
  • 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, went to the flat of Ahuja entered his bedroom and shot him dead.
     
  • Thereafter, the accused surrendered himself to the police. He was put under arrest and in due course, he was committed to the Sessions for facing a charge under s. 302 of the Indian Penal code.
     
  • Thereafter, he drove his wife, two of his children and a neighbour's child in his car to a cinema, dropped them there and promised to come and pick them up at 6 P.M. when the show ended. He represented to the authorities in the ship, that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the stores of the ship as he was going to drive alone to Ahmednagar by night, though the real purpose was to shoot himself.
     
  • On receiving the revolver and six cartridges, and put it inside a brown envelope. Then he drove his car to Ahuja's office, and not finding him there, he drove to Ahuja's flat, rang the doorbell, and, when it was opened by a servant, walked to Ahuja's bed-room, went into the bedroom and shut the door behind him.
     
  • He also carried with him the envelope containing the revolver. The accused saw the deceased inside the bed-room, called him a filthy swine and asked him whether he would marry Sylvia and look after the children. The deceased retorted, Am I to marry every woman I sleep with? The accused became enraged, put the envelope containing the revolver on a cabinet nearby, and threatened to thrash the deceased.
     
  • The deceased made a sudden move to grasp at the envelope when the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back. A struggle ensued between the two and during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja resulting in his death. After the shooting, the accused went back to his car and drove it to the police station where he surrendered himself.
     
  • The trial court convicted under S.304 A of IPC and in appeal, the high court convert it into S.302 of IPC.
     
  • So the accuse made an appeal before the SC and at the same time, he made an application to the governor under Art. 161.

Judgement:
Proceedings at Sessions Court +Jury and High Court:
  • The appellant was charged under 302 as well as under s. 304, Part I, of the Indian Penal Code and was tried by the Sessions Judge, Greater Bombay, with the aid of a special jury. The jury brought in a verdict of not guilty by 8: 1 under both the sections; but the Sessions Judge did not agree with the verdict of the jury, as in his view the majority verdict of the jury was such that no reasonable body of men could, having regard to the evidence, bring in such a verdict.
     
  • The learned Sessions Judge submitted the case under 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Bombay High Court after recording the grounds for his 6 opinion. The said reference was heard by a division bench of the said High Court consisting of Shelat and Naik, JJ. The two learned Judges gave separate judgments but agreed in holding that the accused was guilty of the offence of murder under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life.
Shelat, J., having held that there were misdirection's to the jury, reviewed the entire evidence and came to the conclusion that the accused was clearly guilty of the offence of murder, alternatively, he expressed the view that the verdict of the jury was perverse, unreasonable and, in any event, contrary to the weight of evidence.

Naik, J., preferred to base his conclusion on the alternative ground, namely, that no reasonable body of persons could have come to the conclusion arrived at by the jury. Both the learned Judges agreed that no case had been made out to reduce the offence from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Thereafter, the appeal had been preferred against the said conviction and sentence

Proceedings At Supreme Court
Mr. G. S Pathak, learned counsel for the accused, raised the following points:
  • Under 307 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the High Court should decide whether a reference made by a Sessions Judge was competent only on a perusal of the order of reference made to it and it had no jurisdiction to consider the evidence and come to a conclusion whether the reference was competent or not.
     
  • Under s. 307(3) of the said Code, the High Court had no power to set aside the verdict of a jury on the ground that there were misdirections in the charge made by the Sessions Judge.
     
  • I here was no misdirections at all in the charge made by the Sessions Judge, and indeed his charge was fair to the prosecution as well to the accused.
     
  • The verdict of the jury was not perverse and it was such that a reasonable body of persons could arrive at it on the evidence placed before them.
     
  • In any view, the accused shot at the deceased under grave and sudden provocation, and therefore even if he had committed an offence, it would not be murder but only culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Law Points Involved:
  • Relevant provisions:
    Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code.
    Nothing is an offence which is done by accident or misfortune, and without any criminal intention or knowledge in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means and with proper care and caution.
Evidence Act.
Section 103: The burden of proof as to any particular fact lies on that person who wishes the Court to believe in its existence, unless it is provided by any law that the proof of that fact shall lie on any particular person.

Section 105: When a person is accused of any offence, the burden of proving the existence of circumstances bringing the case within any of the General Exceptions in the Indian Penal Code (XLV of 1860) or within any special exception or proviso contained in any other part of the same Code, or in any law defining the offence, is upon him, and the Court shall presume the absence of such circumstances.

Section 3: In this Act the following words and expressions are used in the following senses, unless a contrary intention appears from the context:
A fact is said to be disproved when, after considering the matters before it, the Court either believes that it does not exist, or considers its non-existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it does not exist.

Section 4: Whenever it is directed by this Act that the Court shall presume a fact, it shall regard such fact as proved unless and until it is disproved.

Law Applied::
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (Act, 5 of 1898), 88. 307, 410, 417, 418 (1), 423(2), 297,155 (1), 162
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), 88. 302, 300, Exception I
  • Indian Evidence Act,1872 (1 of 1872), 8. 105.

Case Law Referred:
  • Mancini v. Director of Public Prosecutions,L.R. (1942) A.C. I,
  • Holmes v. Director of Public Prosecutions, L. R. (1946) A.C. 588 Duffy's case,
  • [1949]1 All. E. R. 932 and R. v. Thomas,
  • (1837) 7C. & P. 817, considered.

Arguments stated by Defence and Petitioner using above mentioned provisions:
Petitioner
  • The accused, at the time of the alleged murder, was second in command of the Indian Naval Ship Mysore. He married Sylvia in 1949 in the registry office at Portsmouth, England. They have three children by the marriage, a boy aged 9 and 1/2 years, a girl aged 5 and 1/2 years and another boy aged 3 years. Since the time of marriage, the couple was living at different places having regard to the exigencies of service of Nanavati.
     
  • Finally, they shifted to Bombay. In the same city, the deceased Ahuja was doing business in automobiles and was residing, along with his sister, in a building called Shreyas till 1957 and thereafter in another building called Jivan Jyot in Setalvad Road. In the year 1956, Agniks, who were common friends of Nanavati's and Ahujas, introduced Ahuja and his sister to Nanavati's.
     
  • Ahuja was unmarried and was about 34 years of age at the time of his death, Nanavati, as a Naval Officer, was frequently going away from Bombay in his ship, leaving his wife and children in Bombay. Gradually, a friendship developed between Ahuja and Sylvia, which culminated in illicit intimacy between them.
     
  • 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, went to the flat of Ahuja entered his bedroom and shot him dead. Thereafter, the accused surrendered himself to the police. He was put under arrest and in due course, he was committed to the Sessions for facing a charge under 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

Defendant
As disclosed in the Statement made by the accused before the Sessions Court under s. 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and his deposition in the said Court: 5
  • The accused was away with his ship from April 6, 1959, to April 18, 1959. Immediately after returning to Bombay, he and his wife went to Ahmednagar for about three days in the company of his younger brother and his wife. Thereafter, they returned to Bombay and after a few days, his brother and his wife left them.
     
  • After they had left, the accused noticed that his wife was behaving strangely and was not responsive or affectionate to him. When questioned, she used to evade the issue. At noon on April 27, 1959, when they were sitting in the sitting-room for the lunch to be served, the accused put his arm around his wife affectionately, when she seemed to go tense and unresponsive. After lunch, when he questioned her about her fidelity, she shook her head to indicate that she was unfaithful to him. He guessed that her paramour was Ahuja.
     
  • As she did not even indicate clearly whether Ahuja would marry her and look after the children, he decided to settle the matter with him. Sylvia pleaded with him not go to Ahuja's house, as he might shoot him.
     
  • Thereafter, he drove his wife, two of his children and a neighbor's child in his car to a cinema, dropped them there and promised to come and pick them up at 6 P.M. when the show ended. He then drove his car to his ship, as he wanted to get medicine for his sick dog, he represented to the authorities in the ship, that he wanted to draw a revolver and six rounds from the stores of the ship as he was going to drive alone to Ahmednagar by night, though the real purpose was to shoot himself.
     
  • On receiving the revolver and six cartridges, and put it inside a brown envelope. Then he drove his car to Ahuja's office, and not finding him there, he drove to Ahuja's flat, rang the doorbell, and, when it was opened by a servant, walked to Ahuja's bed-room, went into the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He also carried with him the envelope containing the revolver.
  • The accused saw the deceased inside the bed-room, called him a filthy swine and asked him whether he would marry Sylvia and look after the children. The deceased retorted, Am I to marry every woman I sleep with?
     
  • The accused became enraged, put the envelope containing the revolver on a cabinet nearby, and threatened to thrash the deceased. The deceased made a sudden move to grasp at the envelope when the accused whipped out his revolver and told him to get back. A struggle ensued between the two and during that struggle two shots went off accidentally and hit Ahuja resulting in his death. After the shooting the accused went back to his car and drove it to the police station where he surrendered himself.

Impact:
  • Abolition of Jury trials.
  • There was media scrutiny that brought about Nanavati as a victim of foul play, who even in worst hours stood for honour and well-being of his family.
  • Nanavati was pardoned by the then Governor Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, after spending 3 years in jail.

Critical Analysis:
From this we can say the literal rule has been applied the court and just read the plain text of the constitution which clearly used by the SC in this case. Only on the failure of literal rule the other rules of interpretation can be used. But the law is very clear and so there is no point of applying any other rule.

The decision of the hon'ble Supreme Court is quite fitting according to me in this Case. There is no issue that 2 remedy cannot be granted for one cause and same thing is laid down here.

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