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A ’crime of passion’ that India never forgot
发布时间:2017-05-19 15:35:00

  

印度激情犯罪_英语新闻

  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.

  Commander Kawas Maneckshaw Nanavati shot Prem Ahuja, a businessman, with a gun taken from his ship, and then went to the police station to confess his crime.

  His high-profile trial captured the public imagination.

  Frenzied supporters of the officer shouted "Sit Down!" and "Shut Up!" to prosecution witnesses. Crowds packed the surrounding streets, on occasion needing the riot police.

  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. The defence said the gun went off accidentally during a scuffle between the two men.

  But the prosecution pointedly asked how the towel could have remained securely in place when Mr Ahuja was found dead on the floor.

  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. It also turned out to be India’s last trial by jury.

  For one, the defence, a collection of the city’s top lawyers, portrayed the accused as a hero and the victim as a villain.

  They said Nanavati was a senior naval officer who was out at sea for months on end in the service of his country, leaving his wife "lonely and vulnerable".

  They painted Mr Ahuja as a rich businessman with no commitment to either morality or nationalism. An alleged affair with the wife of a naval officer was not only immoral but almost anti-national, the defence argued.

  It also helped the defence case that Nanavati was a Parsi, one of the Zoroastrians of India, a wealthy business community that had created jobs and contributed public institutions to Bombay. The community’s image was one of high-mindedness, integrity and unbounded philanthropy.

  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 defence also pointed to liquor found in his house in what was then a prohibition-era Bombay and the love letters of other women, to suggest a libertine character.

  So the case became a heady mix of morality, patriotism and communal pride and prejudice.

  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.

  Most importantly, the case wrote the death warrant of jury trials in India.

  Without giving any reason, the nine-member jury had found Nanavati innocent. The judge declared the verdict "perverse" because, in his view, all the admissible evidence produced pointed to the officer’s guilt.

  Four months later, facing criticism, the government ended jury trials, or what is called "lay justice".

  Nanavati was sent to prison in September 1960. He was granted parole on health grounds in October 1963 and allowed to live in a bungalow in the hill resort of Lonavala. This is where he was given news of his pardon in March 1964.

      编辑:陈超

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