…three shots that shook the nation!
The impact of media coverage was that despite the crime, the whole country's sympathies were with Nanavati. Even in some circles this trial was compared to the lawsuit for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.
It was the day of April 27, 1959. Bombay Deputy Commissioner John Lobo was planning to go to Nilgiri Hills to avoid the viscous heat of Mumbai.
But at 5 o’clock in the evening, his phone rang the bell. Navy Commander Samuel was on the line and told that Commander Nanavati is coming to meet me.
Lobo asked, ‘what has happened?’ Samuel’s answered ‘he had a fight with a man whom he had shot.’
After a while, Lobo heard a voice outside his room, ‘where is Lobo’s room?’
A tall man wearing a white uniform of Navy was admitted to his room. He introduced himself to the commander Nanavati.
Nanavati said without hesitation, ‘I shot a man.’
Lobo replied, ‘he’s dead. I have just received a message from Gamdevi police station.
On hearing this Nanavati’s face became pale. And the silence was everywhere in the room till some time. Lobo broke the silence and said, ‘would you like to drink a cup of tea?’ ‘No, I want only one glass of water replied Nanavati.
There was some evidence that on that day, when the second-in-command of INS Mysore, Lieutenant Commander Nanavati has returned home after some days then he tried to take the hand of her English wife, Sylvia, in her own hands, then they jerked her.
When Nanavati asked Sylvia, ‘Do not you love me now?’, Sylvia did not respond.
Nanavati again insisted, ‘has any other person come among us?’ Nanavati could left the whole world, not to listen to Silvia’s this answer.
But Nanavati did not even say a word to his wife. After that both of them took their dog to the show to the doctor.
After returning, they ate cutlets and prawn curry and rice and according to the schedule Nanavati left Sylvia and children on the Metro Cinema to see the matinee show of the English film ‘Tom Thumb’.
After this, Nanavati went to his ship from where he took out the .38 Smith and Besan Revolver and shot her wife’s lover Prem Ahuja at his home
At that time Ahuja, wrapping the towel on his waist after bathing and was combing his hair in front of the mirror.
“I got the most specific thing in this case that the slightest murder case reached such a height that Prime Minister Nehru would have to answer to Press about it,” says Bachi Karkaria, author of ‘These Hot Blood The Nanavati Case That Shuk India’.
Within four hours, when the High Court sentenced Nanavati to life imprisonment, the Bombay governor ordered that this judgment should be postponed till the decision on Nanavati’s appeal was made. To review it, the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had to sit. This was the first time in the case of an adultery. In this case, from the defense minister to the prime minister, they had to fall in the middle. It was a strange case in which there was love, it was a crime, a crime of high society. This is the reason that 58 years have passed since this incident, but the interest of the people remains in this case so far. “
Ram Jethmalani set up the Nanavati case at the national level
At that time, the top lawyers of India had their own arguments on both sides. Nanavati took the services of the famous criminal lawyer Karl Khandalwala.
Khandalwala ended his arguments saying that he will not ask for sympathy or compassion for his client, because he has not committed any crime.
Later, Rajni Patel, Y.V. Chandrachud, Nani Palkhivala, MC Seetalwad, CK Daufari and Gopal Swat Pathak took part in the debate on behalf of one side.
Ram Jethmalani, who started his career in that era, then established this case at the national level. Karkaria says, “at that time Ram Jethmalani was a very junior lawyer and was not a public prosecutor. Prem Ahuja’s sister, Mammy, took his services as a supervisor. Jethmalani was a very clever lawyer at that time too. They argued that if Khandalwala’s argument is believed to be right that the bullet went after a scuffle, then why did Prem Bhatia’s towel stick with his waist even after having the bullet? Due to his arguments, such a big story of defence was shattered. “
C.M. Trivedi, who was debating on Prem Ahuja, gave a rebuttal to Karl Khandalwala’s argument that these bullets had gone fatal accidentally and Nanavati’s intention was not to kill Ahuja.
Speaking in the court, Trivedi said, “The words of my opponent can not replace concrete facts and pleas. I am very doubtful whether they are speaking in court or on the stage of any drama.
Lalita Ramadoss is the wife of former naval chief Admiral Ramadoss. At the time the incident took place, she was studying in college. Naval Chief of the time, Admiral Ramdas Katari was her father. Since Nanavati was the father’s favorite officer, Lalita called him as Uncle.
Arthur Road Jail
Lalita remembers “when I first met Nanawati, he used to be lieutenant. They all came to our house, used to eat food and chat. My father, Admiral Ramadoss, was made the first Indian Naval Chief after Independence. In my eyes Nanavati was a very professional naval officer. I remember when these two were married. Sylvia was very beautiful. Nanavati was very dashing and people used to do him hero warships. Interestingly, the commander Nanavati was kept in the Navy’s jail not being kept in Arthur Road jail after his arrest.
It was said so far that his dog was taken to the Naval jail to meet him.
Whenever Nanavati used to come to the court for hearing, he would have been wearing the white uniforms of Navy.
Support for ‘Blitz’
His height was higher than six feet. This thing has been repeatedly told in court that Nanavati is counted among the most intelligent officers of the Indian Navy. It seemed that Prem had done a unpatriotic work by trapping his wife in her love trap.
In this whole case, Bombay’s English tabloid ‘Blitz’ opened in support of Nanavati.
Nowadays, the criminal is usually a trial by the midia but then ‘Blitz’ had set a new example by trailing the victim’s in media. The Nanavati case was a kind of media event before the television era. Towels were sold in the name of Prem Ahuja and Hawker started voicing, Ahuja’s towel … would you beat even if will not trun on.
When Nanavati used to go to court, the girls stood up and thrown flowers on them. Blitz has ensured that despite losing every legal battle, Nanavati wins the battle of mind and heart.
It was not a time to be called politically cold. India’s tension was growing with Pakistan. Even with China, the differences of India had started.
New states were formed. The first communist government was formed in Kerala. But in spite of this, the Nanavati case was being discussed everywhere. There was a lot of mention in Delhi’s newspapers too. ‘
The impact of media coverage was that despite the crime, the whole country’s sympathies were with Nanavati. Even in some circles this trial was compared to the lawsuit for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the defense of Nanavati, the then Defense Minister Krishna Menon came in frount and even Nehru had to give a statement about this.
Blitz went to such an extent that it also gave the argument that commander Nanavati should be left because of his vast experience beneficial if the war occur with China.
This was the first time that the Naval Chief, Admiral Katari himself flew to Canberra and went to Bombay to testify in favor of Nanavati. The entire Navy and even Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon had also opened up to support Nanavati.
Nehru clarified that a family of Nanavati did not recommend about him. But the Naval Chief had definitely said that Nanavati is a very capable officer, so he should not be so strict with him.
But despite all the public support, Nanavati lost all legal battles and the Supreme Court sentenced him to life imprisonment.
But Nanavati did not have to stay in jail for a long time. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the then Maharashtra governor, ended his sentence and gave him a pardon.
This story of Nanavati and Sylvia has got much coverage in India and other countries of the world.
At least three Hindi films were made on this subject!
“There is a movie ‘ ‘ये रास्ते हैं प्यार के’ then another movie made ”अचानक”, and recently another film, ‘रुस्तम’, in which this story was formed, Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight Children’ In 2002, Indira Sinha wrote a novel on it, “The Death of Mr. Love.” It was mentioned in Rohinton Mistry’s book ‘Truth a Long Journey’. In the film ‘Bombay Velvet’ two years ago, a song was filmed in memory of this episode, ‘ये तूने क्या किया, सिल्विया?’
On March 17, 1964, Nanavati was released from a bungalow from Lonavla. He was living there for last six months for one-one mother payroll.
Nanavati spent less than three years in jail. On leaving the jail, Nanavati settled in Canada with her wife Sylvia.
He died there in 2003. His wife Sylvia is still alive but does not want to talk to anyone on this issue.