Akshay Kumar starrer Rustom is largely inspired from the famous 1959 case of KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra that changed the face of the Indian judicial system. The trailer of the movie, produced by Neeraj Pandey, has already created much curiosity among cinema lovers. The movie will hit theatres on August 12.
What is the Nanavati case
On April 27, 1959, Naval officer Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati shot his wife’s lover Prem Ahuja with his service revolver. The case received unprecedented media coverage after which Nanavati, accused under section 302, was declared not guilty by the session court. However, the verdict was dismissed by the Bombay High Court and the case was retried as a bench trial. Nanavati was later convicted and sent to life imprisonment under Section 302 of the IPC.
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Nanavati, a Parsi man, married English-born Sylvia in 1931. They had two sons and a daughter and were settled in Mumbai, then Bombay. With Nanavati being away most of the time due to his naval assignments, Sylvia fell in love with his friend Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja. Prem agreed to marry Sylvia, provided she divorced her husband. However, Sylvia came to know that Prem has been involved with many other girls.
On the day of the crime, when Nanavati returned home from one of his assignments, she found Sylvia depressed. On being questioned, Sylvia confessed about the affair to her husband. Upset with the confession, Nanavati, as promised earlier, dropped his family at the Metro Cinema for a show, but excused himself. He went to the Naval base, collected his pistol and went straight to Prem Ahuja. At Ahuja’s residence, Nanavati asked him whether he intended to marry Sylvia and accept their children. Prem replied “Will I marry every woman I sleep with?” and Nanavati killed him firing three shots, says court records.
In court, the main argument was on whether Nanavati shot Ahuja in the “heat of the moment” or whether it was a premeditated murder. While Nanavti would be charged under culpable homicide, with a maximum punishment of 10 years, in the former scenario, he would be charged with murder in the latter situation, the sentence being death or life imprisonment.
Nanavati pleaded not guilty in court. His lawyers argued it as a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, while the prosecution argued it was premeditated murder. Since Nanavati, a patriotic person serving the country, had no criminal background and he willingly surrendered, the Bombay session court pronounced him not guilty under Section 302.
The case went to the Bombay High Court which agreed with the prosecution’s argument that the murder was premeditated and sentenced him to life imprisonment for culpable homicide amounting to murder. The Supreme Court also upheld the conviction.
Nanavati, however, garnered huge support from public, the Indian Navy and the Parsi community. Rallies were held on Bombay streets demanding pardoning of the convicted officer. Prem’s sister Mamie Ahuja was persuaded to forgive Nanavati. She gave her assent for his pardon in writing and Nanavati was released after spending three years in jail.
After his release, Nanavati with his wife Sylvia and three children shifted to Canada. He died in 2003.
Not the first movie
Director Gulzar made a film titled Achanak based on the Nanavati case in 1973. The movie featuring Vinod Khanna, Lily Chakravarty, and Om Shivpuri, was inspired by the case. It was a box-office hit.