Governor’s Inaction and Judicial Review

In this sensational case, Nanavati was a naval officer and was arrested for murder. In a jury trial, Nanavati was acquitted by a majority of 8 to 1. However, the High Court disagreed with this ruling and found the naval officer guilty under s. 302 and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment by a judgment dated March 11, 1960. On the same day the Governor of Bombay suspended this sentence pronounced by the High Court of Bombay until the appeal, if any, formed by him has been decided by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the naval officer was to be held in a naval prison. After elaborate arguments on the scope of sections 142 and 161, the majority held that the judicial power under section 142 and the executive power under section 161 can, within certain limits, be exercised within the same domain.

These two articles must be interpreted harmoniously because one is not subject to the other by specific words. Articles 142 and 161 do not contain any limiting word. Rejecting Seervai’s plea, the majority held that the Governor’s order granting a stay of sentence could only apply until the case went subjudicially before the Supreme Court. Once the request for special authorization is filed, it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to grant him bail or if he should pass other orders.