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A 'crime of passion' that India never forgot

Fernanda Nunes | Published wed May 24, 2017 12:19 am | 3042 Views

On the sultry afternoon of 27 April 1959, in a posh Bombay (now Mumbai) neighbourhood, a decorated Indian naval officer entered the bedroom of his English wife's lover and shot him dead. 

Verdict declared "perverse" by judge and referred to the Bombay High Court 11 March 1960: Bombay High Court finds Nanavati guilty of murdering Ahuja and sentences him to life in prison Within four hours, the governor of Bombay state issues unprecedented order suspending the sentence until Nanavati's appeal to the Supreme Court

Sept 1960: Nanavati is transferred from naval custody to a civilian prison Oct 1963: Nanavati gets parole on health grounds and is moved to a bungalow at a hill resort 16 Mar 1964: Nanavati is pardoned by the governor of the new Maharashtra state, Vijaylakshmi Pandit 1968: Nanavati and his family - wife and three children - emigrate to Canada Inside the court, the prosecution argued that Mr Ahuja had just emerged from his bath, with only a towel round his waist, when he was shot. 

No kissing please, we are Indians The trial of India's first upper-class "crime of passion" - a gripping tale of love and honour - had enough twists and turns, leading to an unexpected pardon for the naval officer. 

The case became a heady mix of morality, patriotism and communal pride For one, the defence, a collection of the city's top lawyers, portrayed the accused as a hero and the victim as a villain. 

Heady mix Mr Ahuja, in contrast, was a Sindhi, a community of Partition refugees, and was portrayed by the defence and the tabloid media as one interested only in making money by fair means or foul. 

The case led the Supreme Court to take another look at the constitutional laws defining the powers of the governor - the state's governor had issued an unprecedented order suspending the guilty sentence passed by the high court, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court. 


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