Monday, December 19, 2011

Mumbai April 27 1959: Nanavati's Story

Reading Time ~10 minutes.


K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra
Mumbai District and Sessions Court, 
October 21, 1959.
A large crowd gathered and jostled at the Mumbai Sessions Court. Men left work and came to watch, women left their work and homes, children cut school. A pandemonium broke out when the police van with Commander Kawas Maneckshaw Nanavati arrived. It was as if a spark ran through the crowd. Some women screamed his name. Nanavati, tall and composed, cut a stately figure in his white Navy medaled uniform.

The court room was packed, for the verdict of the jury was due. For a murder that rocked the city. A naval commander on trial for murder, over love, was unheard of. The case was making headlines everyday. Newspapers sold like hotcakes, the Blitz jacked up its rate to Rs. 2 from the regular Rs.0.25. The street vendors weren't behind in making money. They sold Nanavati revolvers and Ahuja towels. Bang bang bang. Even Ram Jethmalani and Karl Khandalawala, lawyers hired for the prosecution and of the defense, had a hard time getting into the court premises past the reporters.
No one knew that the 9 member jury consisting of - 2 Parsis, 2 Christians and 5 Hindus would be the last jury trial in India.

*****
4.20 PM.
April 27, 1959.
Bedroom of Prem Ahuja.
Jeevan Jyot Apartments, Second Floor, Nepean Sea Road, Malabar Hills.

Prem Bhagwandas Ahuja had come home early from his automobile store. It was a hot day and the weather was sticky. He ended his day early for he wanted to take a shower. 
After the shower, he was brushing his hair standing in front of the bathroom mirror when he heard the door open and a man enter, closing the door behind him.
Ahuja looked out, surprised to see the familiar man near the bedroom door.

The man came right to the point-
"You filthy swine, he said
Are you prepared to marry Sylvia and care for my children?

Ahuja became caustic with the unexpected confrontation-
Am I to marry every woman I sleep with?
Get out of here before I throw you out"

*****
4.20 PM.
Bedroom of Mamie Ahuja, sister of Prem Ahuja.

Mamie Ahuja heard her brother in the shower. She was resting with a cup of tea. The doorbell rang and she heard Anjani Rapa, the maid, open it. Wonder who it is, she thought.
Soon, she a strange noise. Loud. Glass breaking. Is it from the street?
The streets are getting more crowded and noisier every passing day. No, it is from the inside.
Perplexed, she put her cup down and came out. The house-help came running too, curious. They went into Prem Ahuja's room
Prem was lying in blood, still in a bath towel. The glass was shattered, blood was on walls. 
What is this, she screamed, looking at Nanavati, who was there with a gun in his  hand. But Nanavati did not answer. Then he walked away. 

*****
6.00PM April 27.
Gamdevi Police Station.

The Deputy Commissioner on duty, John Lobo, got a call from the Naval Provost Marshal, Samuel, that a Commander from the Navy had been looking for a police station, he had a confession and was coming over. Even then, the Deputy Commissioner was surprised to see a composed, well-dressed man in a spotless white shirt and trousers walk in, asking "Lobo Sahib ka kamra kahan hai?"
Nanavati repeated what he had told the Provost  "Something terrible has happened. I do not know what has happened. I have shot a man"
Lobo: "I know. The man is dead."
Nanavati apparently turned pale.  He refused tea but asked for a glass of water.  He gave a bunch of keys and requested they be given to his wife at a cinema theater. The police recovered a revolver and removed unspent cartridges from his car.
Do they put the Commander in a common lock-up? There was no precedent. The Deputy Commissioner wasn't sure what to do.

*****
3.00 PM, April 27
The Streets

Nanavati was driving. He was very quiet. The children, all three, were quiet too. Just as how children sense when something is wrong with the grown ups and do their best to be proper. Sylvia sat quietly in front, preoccupied. Nanavati pulled into Metro Theater, where they had already bought tickets earlier in the morning for a matinée show of Tom Thumb. The family got off, Nanavati did not join them but said he would pick them up at the end of the show at 6.00PM.

*****
1.00 PM, April 27
Nanavati's Apartment
Cuffe Parade

Nanavati had come home on April 18 after duty on the naval ship, Mysore, where he was second in charge. This time around, coming home felt different. Sylvia was aloof and there was much tension.
His feelings had deepened since they met and married in 1949 in England.  He was 24, she was 18. Elegant and lovely, she made their house in Mumbai into a home and was the glue that held and gave meaning to their family.
The morning of April 27th was very rough, with all the errands amidst the tension. After lunch, Nanavati sat on the other end of the sofa Sylvia was relaxing on and asked a different question as opposed to "Whats wrong, dear?" which wasn't going anywhere.
Sylvia, he said, "Do you still love me?" 
No reply
"Are you in love with someone else?" 
No reply
"Is it Ahuja?"
"Yes"
"Have you been faithful to me?"
"No".  
Nanavati was stunned.
He was beside himself. He said he wanted to see Ahuja. Then he said excitedly he wanted to kill himself. 
"No, no", Sylvia said trying to calm him, "You are the innocent one in this"
He pleaded. He said they could still be together, he would forgive her if she stopped seeing Ahuja.
She did not say anything.
"Are you going to marry?"
She did not have a reply.
Nanavati's had to make his own conclusions.

*****
3.30-4.20PM, April 27
The Streets

Nanavati drove away from the cinema theater still in a daze.
He drove or rather, found himself going to the Navy armoury. “Self Protection” he said and signed out a gun with six cartridges. The clerk put them in brown paper bag.
Nanavati drove to the Universal Motors Office on Pedder Road and asked for Prem Ahuja. He already left, he was told. (Interestingly, Nanavati did not take the gun with him when he went in and looked around for Ahuja in the showroom) 
Then Nanavati drove to Ahuja's home and rang the bell. Anjani Rapa, a maid opened.
She knew Nanavati and his family were close friends of the Ahujas. When asked where Prem Ahuja was, she nonchalantly said, "Bedroom".

***************
K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra.
Mumbai District and Sessions Court, 
October 21, 1959.

The public and jury sympathized with Nanavati, who had a decorated career with the Navy and an exemplary character. They felt, somehow, he had acted honorably.
Sylvia had been steadfast in her support to her husband all through the trial. She had gotten over her infatuation with Ahuja. She and Nanavati were the main witnesses for the defense. Sylvia was reportedly a teary-eyed witness. All her letters to Prem Ahuja became public and were served as evidence. Dressed in a white sari, her time in the witness stand was apparently rough.

The defense presented a picture of the 34 year-old, unmarried Ahuja being a playboy and of the death being accidental. The tabloid, Blitz, run by Mr Karanjia, stridently supported Nanavati as did the Parsi Panchayat and the Indian Navy. Nanavati was on the stand for two days giving testimony. 

The Sindhi community stood by Mamie Ahuja. She testified for her brother. “He was going to marry Sylvia provided she divorced Nanavati” was her contention. The prosecution argued that the murder was premeditated and Nanavati deserved maximum sentencing.
Interesting time it was for the country, Nehru was the Prime Minister, VijayaLakshmi Pandit was the governor of Maharashtra, India was trying to crawl out of a colonial mentality, Mumbai was building a new identity.

At 7.00 PM, the jury returned with the verdict of “Not Guilty”, 8:1.
When Nanavati came out of the court, the crowd went crazy. Rs 100 bills smeared with lipstick rained on him like confetti. He had already been receiving marriage proposals from women, who hoped he would divorce his firang wife and become available. He was a hero. A real one.

The judge referred the case to the High Court and an appeal was filed. Because of the many issues in finding an unbiased jury and problems in having a jury properly follow the judge's directive, the jury system was abolished, forever, in the country! This was the last case by jury trial in India.

*****
In the High Court and later, the Supreme Court, a judge ruled on the case.
The case revolved on what happened in the bathroom on the fateful day of April 27, 1959. The prosecution stated premeditation, the defense rested on accidental firing.
Defense: Nanavati went to find out the future from Prem Ahuja himself. A fight broke out after a verbal spat and Ahuja tried to grab the brown bag holding the gun which Nanavati had placed on a cabinet. Nanavati reached for it too. In the struggle that ensued to control the gun, it got accidentally fired.
Prosecution: It was premeditated murder. A gun was methodically acquired. If there was a tussle, why didn't the towel of the victim fall off?
Witnesses were called to testify that the gunshots, three in all, were fired in succession (a fight would have necessitated pauses) and that subsequent to the shooting, Nanavati's clothes were stain free. He was composed enough so as to drive to the home of the Navy Provost to confess. He had calmly unloaded the gun and corrected the spelling of his name at the police station. 
One unanswered question remained as to why the towel did not fall, at all, even with the muscular contractions of death. Very unusual, apparently.

The High Court found Nanavati guilty of homicide amounting to murder and sentenced him to life in prison. The Supreme Court upheld the decision on November 11, 1961.
Nanavati had to resign his post in the Navy. He had already sold his possessions - car, refrigerator, camera, Sylvia's jewelry, and such to pay the legal costs. The children were having a hard time in school and had to be taken out.
The Parsi panchayat held a huge rally and submitted a petition to transfer Nanavati to the custody of the Navy, but that did not happen. Nanavati apparently was stoic, not giving to public display of emotion when the life sentence was handed. He disappeared behind the gates of Arthur Road Prison after kissing his sobbing wife goodbye.

*****
K. M. Nanavati
Sylvia Nanavati











Prem Ahuja
In 1959, Nanavati and Ahuja were both 34 years of age and Sylvia was 28.

*****
Three years passed. Much happened in the country and the world. Goa came back to India. There was the Indo-China war. Krishna Menon, who was the defense minister, resigned. Interestingly, Nanavati had worked for him when in England. JFK was killed. Nehru died.
After three years, in an unusual turnaround, Nanavati was pardoned by the Governor, but not before a letter from Mamie Ahuja that she has no objection to the pardon was presented. The pardon was quid pro quo: another popular person, Bhai Pratap, a freedom fighter who got caught up in a funds case, was simultaneously pardoned. He was from the Sindhi community.

***************
I became intrigued when I read about the case. Another way of looking at it-

>>>>>
What started as a friendship and social meet-ups with the Ahujas, brother and sister, in time became more than that for Sylvia. Prem Ahuja, with his looks, charm and suave won her over and she became infatuated with him. But Prem was being elusive of recent and was breaking her heart. He even asked that they not meet for a while...
>>
Prem Ahuja was in a fix. He had not expected Sylvia to fall in love with him and expect to marry. He was trying to let her down gently. It wasn't going well. Casually mentioning “all the girls available, one of whom he might marry”- upset Sylvia very much. She could not stand the thought.
>>
After lunch, Nanavati's small world had came apart. In less than ten minutes. The walls around him collapsed and the ground disappeared. How to suddenly stop loving someone? He could not imagine living without his wife. There was nothing to go on. He moved in a daze.
He got a gun and wanted to go far away, far away and shoot himself. But a thought kept nagging, he needed to be sure. That Sylvia and the children would be taken care of. He drove to the dealership.
Ahuja left for home, they said. He went to the Ahujas home, walked into the bedroom in a trance. In desperation, asked the question of Ahuja himself.
Just out of a shower and already troubled by Sylvia's queries, Ahuja was flabbergasted. His shock, guilt and embarrassment turned into sarcasm and he said the now infamous words.
Nanavati was overwhelmed. Not only did Prem betray friendship, ruin his family, he wasn't acting honorably. So cheap he made it seem. Rage came over his usual composure. Three shots were heard.
>>>>>

Was there a fight for the gun? Or was it just a lunge? Was Nanavati too quick for Ahuja? Was it indeed an accident? Or was it intentional?
The prosecution proved there could not have been a fight- the shots were fired in succession, Ahuja must have slumped with the first injury and could not have struggled any more, the towel stayed on Ahuja and Nanavati's clothes were spotless. No fight--straight-off-shooting--no-accident--premeditation--guilty, was their premise. The case and conviction rested on that. They won.
The defense's version of a fight was also plausible,  it was not completely impossible.

Two things stand out for me. Or more.
First, no caring father or mother will ever ask someone else "will you take care of my children" unless the parent was planning to be missing in the future picture. Second, what if the entire conversation in the bathroom did not happen? We only have Nanavati's version. What if he just walked in and shot Ahuja?
The conversation was so raw, it had to be real. Nanavati's words on the stand were "If I intended to kill him, I could have riddled him with bullets as soon as I saw him". Also, Commodore Nanda testified that Nanavati was a very good shot and could not have fired as haphazardly as the injuries indicated if there wasn't a fight. (But the target was also not standard, the victim could have been trying to escape).

It is likely there was no tangible premeditation. In reality, it could not have been a 0 – 1 proposition. It rarely is. It is likely some thoughts of murder crossed Nanavati's mind. It is likely he was not acting on them up until Ahuja's retort.  It is much harder to prove to a jury that 'while intent to kill crossed the mind, it was sufficiently under control". Also he was trained and was methodical, which explains the fairly involuntary actions in unloading the gun and correcting his name. There was no attempt to flee, he confessed straightaway.

Just three years later, Ram Jethlamani after a proposal and a visit from a lawyer and Sylvia, managed to persuade Mamie Ahuja into writing a no-objection letter for Nanavati's release. If you were Mamie Ahuja, would you do it if you believed Nanavati was guilty of premeditated murder of your brother? 
I don't think so. One would do it only if one believes: a bad situation got worse, a death occurred in the heat of moment. Her brother lost his life, he was not coming back. Others suffered too.
Mamie Ahuja, she had the heart to forgive.

**************
Repercussions

Abolishing the jury system in the entire country following this trial in the Mumbai Sessions Court was, I believe, an overreaction. Because being judged for a crime by a jury made of peers is a cornerstone of democracy.
Sure, a jury trial can be cumbersome, cost more money and stretch out proceedings. The judge has to work extra hard to make the jury understand some legal aspects. He also has to screen and select a jury.  In its defense, a jury is a representation of the society, as it is. A jury gets better and educated with time but only at the same pace as the average society.
A criminal justice system where an accused is judged by his/her peers seems so appropriate for a country like India, despite and because of all the complications. The society in the form of a jury deserves the right to punish those guilty of crimes against them. Is it possible, is it of interest, to bring back the jury system?

*****
More than four decades later, a newspaper, Hindustan Times, reached Nanavati for a story. Here is his reply-


He wrote in his own hand: a letter which was polite and firm.
Back in 1959, he had no inkling, how his thoughts and actions on a summer afternoon, in a space of about three hours, would rivet the entire nation and change the country forever.
After the pardon that he chose to live quietly away from the public eye. He and his family exchanged their tumultuous high life in Mumbai for an anonymous, common emigrant life in Canada. Or maybe it was in the unspoken terms of the pardon, we don't know. He and Sylvia were together till he passed away, in 2003.

***************
Notes
1. Images are from Wikipedia and Hindustan Times. Sources are various, all online. 
2. Troubles with jury selection and isolation during the OJ Simpson case are legendary. Judge Lance Ito became fodder for late night comedy shows parodying the entire case. Acquittal by jury of the police officers in the Rodney King beating case lead to riots. Both these cases are infamous examples of the  jury system in the US being put to a severe test. 
3. 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda is a gripping movie dealing with jury conflicts amidst personal biases. 

64 comments:

  1. The simplicity of his reply, is such a contrast to the current times, where all scandals make a beeline to a book-deal or more. That by itself makes him a more sympathetic actor.

    I wonder if there were other forces underneath that inclined the country to abolish jury system and what they might be. If this case played a bigger role than just being a trigger in that decision, it is indeed very sad.

    -Krishna

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  2. These struck me too.
    The brief letter is his voice and it speaks well. I believe that the jury issue here was somehow the last straw, the judicial system was probably struggling for cash and manpower with a heavy load.

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  3. There is no easy answer to crime and punishment.

    Your story is strong when you present the facts. The story is so strong it can tell itself.

    Your observations are interesting. Especially nice were view points on ahujas sister choosing to forgive. Would forgive. Yes if it brings me peace. No if not. Would I want my sister to forgive should such misfortune befall me. If I was leading a tortured life then most certainly yes. Else what ever brings her peace.


    The aspect that could benefit from greater chiseling is style. For example "she made his house into a home" reads like a cheesy hall mark card. The non linear narrative is appropriate in places. Certainly when you are using the narrative to substantiate a view point. At other locations not sure why reordering time is necessary.

    But finally what matters is the choice of what you choose to tell. And you chose to tell a good story. Style is for fools, imbeciles and other pseudointelletuals. But you could still use some.

    Arvind

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  4. Hey Arvind,
    Re. Style, I'm impressionable!
    If my voice in telling the story is clear, a style naturally emerges. If a style is not evident or is patchy then my voice isn't clear but is conflicted.
    Doing proper justice to the story in the way I wanted: a cross between a statement of facts and the feelings of those involved meant giving voice to all the players. A blog-length post wasn't being enough, I realized. So some shortcuts.
    The story I wanted was of Nanavati, when I felt it came through enough, I let the post go. It wasn't finishing anytime soon and was making me sad. I wanted the post to end in his voice, so the non-linearity in the end.

    Yes, it is a powerful story and I feel there is still much more to tell and ponder. Thanks much for reading and the thoughtful comment.

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  5. Nice factual work , i just came to know about Nanavati case today , thanks to my MBA entrance GK preparation and this is how i landed here on your blog.

    I am impressed the way you gave this poignant touch to the story ,however about the 2 doubts which u mentioned , i guess and i am pretty sure that there can't be any conversation in this scenario for a person from forces (as i have many friends in army and my father was also an ex-army personnel) , they dont do probing ,these ppl are quick decision maker ,hence i can infer from your facts that there cudn't be any conversation between ahuja n nanavati-just Nanavati enters wait for couple of seconds (coz that conversation can not be done in 1 whole minute including 3 shots in succession )for Ahuja to come out of bathroom while loading gun and in anxiety he just shot with rush of blood bang bang bang...and the conversation he portrayed in order to gain sympathy or proving how sick the Ahuja was .

    2ndly Ahuja's sister's consent on pardoning letter,after 3 years of imprisonment ,considering her close relationship with Nanavati's family also ,some how she can think of Ahuja spoiled their life ,career and everything so both has got their punishment parts and then she can make up her mind of pardoning.

    Anyways .i will check your other articles some other time after my exams ,It was an incredible story.

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  6. great article. very well written. takes back you to those black and white 50s but also shows how small things make way for a total change in the country. Maybe recent delhi incident would also bring in change in the system when we review it 50 years from today.

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  7. Very striking article. This case has always made me very sad...Being an army officer's daughter I understand the control part,which the civilian public finds strange probably. I also understand how much family and the support of a wife can make or break a man in uniform. From Nanavati's actions, I feel he did not act on impulse and murder was not premeditated and his intention was directed towards Ahuja taking responsibility for his actions. If he was driven by anger and lack of reason, he would have vented it out probably on Sylvia. And not bothered to question Ahuja. It was his misfortune. Despite this aberration ...He was an honourable man I think.

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  8. I was a kid then and my father was so crazy after Karanjia's Blitz that he followed Nanavati's story with passion and was happy that he was a free man finally.

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  9. there are other ways for a naval officer to suicide. He was not calm i would say and it is well planned and executed. If he was really cared for the future of his betrayed-wife and children he would have definitely had plenty of discussions and convinced Mr Ahuja. Nothing can take place in three minutes unless it is premediated murder. But a sorry face has been created by words and media at that time and because he was close to ruling family and being in the same religious group. There must also be some unwritten conditions in the pardon and that is why they left for Canada as a common man( ??) and how he spent rest of his life of 4 decades. He cannot leave his wife as he loved her but it was one sided and after the murder she could not have thought of Mr Ahuja, All planned and acted well. Late act of consciousness.

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  10. I'm sorry but your post also seems rather biased. As though it would be simple for him to convince his family to go to the theatre just like that without him while in the midst of that 'haze' when he decided to 'kill himself' and thus made the decision to go get the gun. Clearly this was a man who knew what he wanted to do. He was a man who did not have a death wish and could have been so noble as to inquire with his wife's lover as to whether he will look after his children. Thats the stuff of Bollywood and tabloids. Its ridiculous. I assure you, the High Court had the sense to see the practically sensible version where someone was mad at the guy his wife slept with, took a gun and shot him. It was murder, plain and simple. The fact that jury trials were abolished thereafter was the best change to the indian judicial system that could have ever happened. I think it is true, that an Indian jury is likely to be swayed by public and media opinion, its a simple outcome of Indian society and culture.

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    Replies
    1. I disagree on your reading of "noble" intentions however Bollywoody it may seem. Too many what ifs, but quite a few scenarios were possible and plausible then. Given Nanavati's multiple character references and the fact that Sylvia chose to stick by him for four long decades him in a much freer society like Canada, says a lot to us today about him. And given that Indian IPC also allows for plea of temporary insanity in the heat of the moment, more recent cases may have absolved him of blame faster!
      Lastly, I agree on abolition of juries, however in all nations. May look great as a democratic staging, but even in America people get swayed by media and public opinions and biases, how much ever "sequestering" they get subjected to. One can look only as far as OJ Simpson's circus case to understand what I mean. Enough said.

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  11. Great write up. I am from Malaysia and I only heard about it after watching the movie 'Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar 1963'. Thanks for info

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  12. Thank you all for reading, for sharing and the comments.
    I've enjoyed reading so many perspectives. The opinions of people from or with family in the military are harder, it appears. I'm not so sure- but then, I've explained it all in the post!
    I think the jury is system is suitable for any democracy. It is a fair system. Yes, there will be administration and cost problems, but that is a learning curve.

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  13. Thanks for a great article about my grandfather.

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    1. Hlo sir!I have read whole article.I hav watched Rustom which is based K.M Nanavati Murder Case.So,Sir I want to know tht r ur grandfather is alive & if he is alive,has he watched the film "Rustom".Hav ur family or u watched the film?plz sir infrm me.I just want knw.

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    2. Mr. Nanavati died in 2003.

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  14. You write so well,so precisely,that I CAN VISUALIZE EVERY SCENE IN MY MIND.
    WOW- I GREW UP WITH THIS STORY and can add only the SONG AND CHANT OF THOSE DAY'S hang down your head...............FOR NANAVATI

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  15. I was in Bombay at the time when this tragedy took place and I at that time was 26 years old. Is it not pathetic that a person like Commander Nanavati provides a good life to his family, serves his country in a dignified Naval career, his whole purpose being to live appears to be serving his country and loving his family, finds that his own friend for the previous 15 years, Prem Ahuja, a known play boy, has seduced his wife Sylvia? Nanavati at that time found his life completely desperate and shattered.

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  16. I am sure Mr.Nanavathi would have committed suicide if prem stated that he would marry sylvia and look after his children. probably for that reason he took hisrevolver. I think he did not have premeditated plan to commit murder: but to commit suicide

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  17. I am reading this in June-2016 in anticipation of Akshay Kumar starrer 'Rustom', which is said to be based on Nanavati trial. I must say you've the knack of amazing story-telling. I could picture the entire incidence in my mind, including vintage buildings and cars, old big houses and spacious Mumbai of that time. I especially liked the nonlinear narrative at the beginning. Kudos to you.

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  18. After watching the trailer of upcoming Akshay Kumar movie,I felt intrigued and ultimately, google led me to your post. Your post doesn't take sides and gives us a feel of what happened as how it happened. That's the best thing about your post. A chill ran down my spine when I read that this legal case changed the entire Judicial system of India back then. Although, no one is a winner in this case except the sister of deceased Prem Ahuja who had such a noble heart! Thank you for this post and I'm looking forward to the movie even more how it treats this story. One question though stemming from the trailer, was Nanavati trying to win public emotion by showcasing himself as a patriot ? Was their anything related to missing files ? Both Wiki and your post doesn't say about that.

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    1. The 'missing files' angle is perhaps a cinematic add-on..

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    2. What is about Sylvia? Where is she?

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  19. All the accounts you hear/read are one sided ie from Nanavatis point of view. But mind you Nanavati was a liar too (he said there was a scuffle,there were blood stains on the wall, not a drop of blood on his dress). Moreso it is wrong to vilify a person who is dead and cannot defend himself. Ahuja was character assassinated by Karanjia editor of Blitz to protect his Parsi brother. Dont armed forces people have sour marraiges. Was Nanavati the first armed forces person to face divorce.... Maybe they had had a troubled marraige. After Ahujas death Sylvia had no choice but to go back to her husband, what with all the publicity. DCP Lobo in his memoirs say that Sylvia made efforts to reconciliate with Kawas at the Commissionarate Office where he was being held. Kawas may have been right or wrong but the negative potrayal of Prem is definitely wrong.

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  20. I never saw such a great person ,who decided to live with his wife who had affair and for her he killed ahuja and was also ready to get punishment...but he is now RIP

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  21. I loved your writing style. It manages to bring alive the entire episode. Very informative and enchanting at the same time.

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  22. It's a pity that the Jury System in India was discontinued. Here, in the U.S. it's a part of our Constitution, Seventh Amendment guarantees of Trial by Jury. I work in the criminal justice system and cannot imagine how the justice system works in India. I see miracles everyday of my life. I work with the public defenders, who fight for every possible right that our criminal defendant and civil defendants have. It is a sad demise of Jury Trial system in India.

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    1. What I learned/read after writing this post was that even then, when the jury system was used in India, it was sought only in some cases.

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  23. It happened then, It happens now. Influential people will always get away. Any influential person can get away with cold blooded murder. Was Sylvia not guilty? What happens to the Ahujas....wad the pardon given without any benefits....this needs to be looked into...all in all, if you have money, you will get away with anything and everything

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    1. *cough*SalmanKhan*cough*

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  24. i do think jury system would have been better. alas!!!!!!

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  25. In the entire tragic episode- yes I was a teenager then, but my mother followed the case unerringly- not a word of anger or pain or dissent from Nanavati on his wife, Sylvia. Was she not to be blamed equally, as Ahuja ? Even with the understanding of a teenager then, I thought Sylvia got off with her unfaithfulness so smoothly. I remember at the time, I hated her. Now as a married middle-aged woman, I understand it is not easy to summarily blame anyone in such a tragedy.

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    1. Agree that there is lots of gray in reality. We don't know the whole story.

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  26. I just saw a movie trailer for Rustom and stumbled upon this blog while trying to learn more. I expect that this blog will be flooded with comments when the movie is released.

    To anyone that thinks jury system is a better one, please research the "Innocense project of Texas". Put your slef in the shows of wrongly convicted by a jury of your peers, especially a jury of immature, emotional and sentimental jury of India.

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    1. I am not in the favor of Jury. What are the highly qualified judges and lawyers for. If at all there can be retired judges and lawyers picked as jury who will understand law and have learned to stay non bias in such cases.

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  27. I menat "shoes", not "shows" in my previous post.

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  28. There was a reference about the gun carried in a brown paper bag. If there was a struggle for the gun (first of all how did Ahuja knew there was a gun inside?) What was the state of the paper bag? Was that bag intact? Lastly if Nanavati's initial intention was to commit suicide why did he not shoot himself immediately after?

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    1. He did wanted to commit suicide but he wanted to make sure if Prem Ahuja had an intention in taking care of his family. If Prem answered in a positive way, Nanavati would have shot himself.

      Delete
    2. He did wanted to commit suicide but he wanted to make sure if Prem Ahuja had an intention in taking care of his family. If Prem answered in a positive way, Nanavati would have shot himself.

      Delete
    3. if (Ahuja=MarrySylvia)
      then
      suicide;
      else
      kill;

      Delete
  29. Well written and narrated.. interesting it seemed to me to follow the case and know about nanavati..a man of honour and he did right for what he thought will be good for his family..it's a typical case of how a women can leave all behind and cheat her loved one just for pleasures and a typical case if a man loves someone how big hearted he could be to think of the wellness of people at every stage even if he has to give up on himself...hats off to nanavati..truly a man of honour..

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    1. I would say that if we consider a large enough population in a free culture, what we perceive as positive and negative qualities in people would present themselves evenly in both genders.

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    2. I agree with what you said Sita. I've seen both good and bad on both sides. Also it is difficult to even define good and bad. It depends on your vantage point. In truth everyone is a victim of circumstances, their experiences and surroundings.

      I am curious though about what made you pick this subject back in 2011.

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  30. I heard about the episode in 1964 when I was 14. People read the stories reported in vernacular dailies to which I had no access. I got a complete story from your blog now. Excellent narration, I wish I too was blessed with this quality. I also read your post on Autism and the details kept my mind engaged thro' out the day.

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    1. Thank you, you are very kind.

      I read only recently that Mr. Jethmalani wasn't the prosecutor, he assisted (in a major way) two prosecutors who served the case. He was also key in convincing Mamie Ahuja to agree to the pardon. But it was Sylvia and a lawyer who appealed to him.
      There are many details to keep together, nevertheless the whole story is what grips our minds. Thanks for reading.

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  31. The murkiest thing in the whole story is Synthia. What was her role in the murder . Did she instigate her husband. All are silent on her angle.

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  32. Such a well written documentation of this case .
    I saw the movie Rustom and while searching found your article .You have a lovely writing style .

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  33. Read the article full.For a chemical engineer,well compiled case presented interestingly.There seemed a similarity in the not so long ago case involving Maria susairaj,jerome Mathew,Murder of Neeraj Grover in Mumbai.All the best,in advance,if ever you decide on writing a novel full fledged.

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  34. Very well written. Thank you. Any idea on what date he was released. Heard somewhere it was linked to celebrating India's 25th Independence Day anniversary!

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  35. I met Sylvia Nanavati at Oakville, ON. She is on her eighties like other any granny leading her life may be in her heart she still has old memories, but I didn't ask anything about this fateful past. Had a good chat. Let her live in peace.

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    Replies
    1. You seem to be right. Sylvia Nanavati, now 85 years old, lives in Burlington, Ontario.
      I tried google search with : "Sylvia Nanavati +Burlington"
      And it shows her name in the list of people donations to some hospital and also her name in auditors filings.

      Just wondering whether did they actually had Swiss Bank account as shown in the movie ?

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    2. My request is to please respect her personal space.

      Nanavati was pardoned, they've moved on. The end. Just as he wrote in the letter.

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  36. When this incident happened I wasn't even born! I saw movie 'Achanak' bet never knew that it was based on a real story of Mr Nanavati. Recently looking at the Promos and publicity based on real story! I was curious to know more about the case. In past few days I have read a lot about this case and reactions of people about the case. Reading your story gives detail narration and various aspects of the fact and I must say that you have mastered the story narration as if you are telling the story and I am listening to it!!!
    About the case I still feels there are so many gray areas in the case itself. Mr Nanavati's actions are interpreted by people with their own rationales and perceptions but actual truth non of us know..... What happened between Mr & Mrs Nanavati's and between Mr Nanavati and Mr Ahuja..... On that day is what they have said in their statements and testimony but with my experience of life I can only say that what goes in individual's mind is difficult to judge... The fact is that they both have spent rest of their life together and it is not short period of time.... It is about four decad they have stood by each other after such traumatic experience that changed their life forever! It must not have been easy one I am sure!!
    After reading Mr Nanavati's hand written letter I can only say that time has not healed the wound as he politely said he wants to forget!!! Means it has never been forgotten after so many years!! The actual truth has gone with Mr Nanavati and Mrs Nanavati should be left with her personal space.
    And about loosing jury judgmental rights for the nation! I think what has happened is good because in this day and age jury judgment could have been proved to be more dangerous!!

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  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  38. Such as nice description.Felt like you haven't missed anything. Generally we ignore the posts which are old as it was dec 2011 now its 2016, still i am willing to post something. so you thrown two version(s) i just want to ask one thing what do YOU THINK really happened Nanavathi just fired on the go else had a rough conversation with Ahuja then accidental shooting taken place? one more question i wanted to know Ahuja's sister was at HOME when Nanavathi came to talk/kill Ahuja?

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  39. Great narration skills mam. Worth an applaud.
    But mam, just out of curiosity, what led you to write a blog about this case way back in 2011? I actually started surfing through after watching move Rustom only.

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  40. it was great
    such a nice person k m nanavati.

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  41. Well written Mam!!! It was very engaging blog. Nanavati single handedly defeated the best lawyers in mumbai.He was truely a great gentleman.Anyways thanks for sharing this beautiful blog with us.

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  42. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/ex-cop-to-whom-nanavati-surrendered-dies-at-96/articleshow/59873143.cms

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  43. Interesting post!
    Thanks for sharing this informative post....
    Top lawyers in mumbai

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  44. I find nanawati's case so intriguing that I have been reading about it again n again from some or the other link that I can gather hoping to pick some extra points of the incident. There have been many such police case but I don't know what is so amusing about nanawati. I m confused if one should blame Sylvia for what she did or was Prem Ahuja was a real magician and any mentally strong woman could fall for him.I can still debate that a mentally firm lady involved with her kids and family can not fall in a trap like that of Ahuja's.I wonder how could Sylvia live long being a black sheep of the family, sensing her guilt every moment.the couple lived together later on, but the relation would have lost its sanctity and trust.
    This has been a nice article but the best part is the image of the letter that Nanawati wrote. I wish he had lived long and Sylvia's life span was swapped with his, as Sylvia 83,is apparently still alive and is in canada

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