1. KM Nanavati and Sylvia had three children
KM Nanavati versus the State of Maharashtra is one of the sensational criminal cases in the history of the Indian judicial system. It left the country and communities divided over whether Nanavati shot his wife Sylvia’s lover Prem Ahuja in the ‘heat of the moment’ or was the murder a ‘premeditated move.’ The attention attracted by the case from sections of the press and otherwise has led to it becoming an inspiration for a script more than once. The Verdict: State vs Nanavati, an upcoming ZEE5 Original and ALTBalaji Original, is set to revisit the case in an eight-part web series. Watch the trailer here:
The digital drama begins streaming on the respective OTT platforms from 30 September 2019. Thus, we present 10 facts about the case you should be updated with before you binge-watch the series.
Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati was Parsi-born commander in the Indian Navy. He put up in Bombay with his wife of English origin, Sylvia, and their two sons and a daughter.
2. Sylvia wanted to leave Nanavati and marry Prem
Nanavati’s job in the naval branch of the Indian Armed Forces required him to be away from home on assignments, for long durations. It was when he wasn’t around that Sylvia fell for his friend. So much so that she wanted to leave her husband and marry Prem. The latter, however, did not harbour the same intentions. Letters written by Sylvia were produced in court as her testimony and proved so.
3. Sylvia had confessed to Nanavati about her affair
4. Nanavati dropped Sylvia and kids to a cinema hall before killing Prem
Nanavati was scheduled to take his family to watch a film, thus, he dropped them at a theatre. Later, he drove to the Naval base and collected his piston under a false pretext, along with six cartridges. The prosecution argued as to how could Sylvia leave a furious Nanavati for a movie, to which she replied, “I was not indifferent to my husband killing himself, but then it’s difficult to explain such things to the children. So I took them to the cinema.”
Nanavati went to Prem’s office first, then his residence. He asked him if he wished to marry Sylvia and accept the children. Soon after a negative response from Prem’s side, Nanavati fired three bullets at him.
Manav Kaul portrays Nanavati in The Verdict.
5. There was no witness in the Nanavati case
After shooting Prem, Nanavati surrendered in front of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, but only after admitting his crime to the Provost Marshal of the Western Naval Command in person first. It was, in fact, the Marshal who advised him to turn himself in.
6. Bombay session court had acquitted Nanavati
The KM Nanavati scandal was one of the last trials by jury cases in India. After the Commander surrendered, he was charged with Section 302. However, the jury pronounced the verdict in favour of Nanavati, acquitting him.
Nanavati was represented by Karl Khandalavala, the biggest criminal lawyer in India, back then. Angad Bedi essays Karl in The Verdict.
7. Bombay HC found Nanavati guilty
Then-young lawyer, late Ram Jethmalani, assisted the prosecution in the Nanavati case. He appealed to the Bombay High Court where Nanavati was found guilty and awarded life imprisonment. Later, the Supreme Court too upheld the HC verdict.
Sumeet Vyas has been roped in to play Jethmalani in The Verdict.
8. The case divided the Sindhi and Parsi communities
The Parsi community rallied hard in support of Nanavati. Meanwhile, the Sindhi community backed the prosecution since Prem was a Sindhi. Nanavati walked in the same circles as the Jawaharlal Nehru-Indira Gandhi family. This won him a direct support from Maharashtra Governor Vijaylakshmi Pandit (Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister).
Vijaylakshmi received a mercy petition for Bhai Pratap, a well-known Sindhi businessman. It was agreed that he could be pardoned.
9. Nanavati in exchange for Bhai Pratap
10. Nanavati released after three years in prison
Mamie Ahuja gave her consent to pardon Nanavati and agreed to the Governor’s request. Soon after release, Nanavati located to Canada with Sylvia and their children. He was never heard of again.
Nanavati died on 24 July 2003. What are your thoughts on the KM Nanavati vs State of Maharashtra 1959 case?
The Verdict: State vs Nanavati starts streaming on ZEE5 30 September 2019 onwards.
In the meantime, watch Akshay Kumar’s 2016 film Rustom on ZEE5, based on the Nanavati scandal.