Rustom brings Nanavati case alive

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Rustom Akshay
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First year law students are all too familiar with the well-known 1959 criminal law case of KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra—the last “memorable” jury trial in India.

Akshay Kumar’s new film, “Rustom”, slated to be released on August 12 is based on the famous case. The real-life KM Nanavati, an Indian Navy officer killed his English wife’s lover Prem Ahuja when the latter refused to marry her.

The story goes thus: Nanavati, returning home from one of his long assignments discovered from his wife about her affair with Ahuja. Although disturbed by the confession, Nanavati dropped his wife and children at the Metro Cinema in Mumbai. Instead of joining them, he went to the naval base to get his service pistol and then confronted Ahuja at his home. On being asked if he intended to marry Nanavati’s wife, Ahuja flatly refused. Nanavati shot him dead. The incident took place on April 27, 1959.

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The case came up before the Bombay Sessions Court, where the jury ruled him “not guilty”. But later, the Bombay High Court sentenced him for murder and awarded him life imprisonment. The Supreme Court too upheld the High Court’s verdict.

There was much public sympathy for the officer. After he had spent three years in prison, he received an official pardon after Ahuja’s sister Mamie Ahuja was persuaded to give her assent to the pardon in writing.

After he was pardoned, Nanavati went to Canada with his wife and children. He died in 2003.

—India Legal Bureau

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