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CASE DOCUMENTARY:- NATHU RAM V. GODSE VS THE CROWN

Author: Dhiraj Kumar Sharma, BA LL.B from University law college (Vinoba bhave University)Hazaribag jharkhand


Case Name:- Nathu Ram V. Godse vs The Crown

Citation: -1949 CriLJ 834

Court:- Bombay High Court

Date of Judgement: October 21, 1949

Parties:-

Plaintiff - Nathu Ram, a member of the Indian National Congress

Defendant - Nathuram Godse, a member of the extremist Hindu nationalist group, RSS


Introduction

Nathu Ram V. Godse vs The Crown is a significant case in the Indian legal history, which dates back to the year 1949. The case involves the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, and the subsequent trial of Nathuram Godse, one of the accused in the case. The case is known for its historical significance and the implications it had on the Indian judicial system. The following is a critical analysis and examination of the case, with a focus on the positive aspects for the plaintiff.


Background

On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement, was assassinated by Nathuram Godse and a group of conspirators. The assassination shook the nation and the world and led to a nationwide search for the perpetrators. Nathuram Godse, along with several other co-conspirators, was arrested and charged with murder under the Indian Penal Code.


Fact

The case originated from the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, by Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte. Godse and Apte were arrested and charged with murder. The trial was held in a special court in Delhi. Nathu Ram, one of the accused, chose to defend himself in the court and made a lengthy statement in his defence. He admitted to assassinating Gandhi but claimed that he did so because he believed that Gandhi was responsible for the partition of India. Nathu Ram also argued that Gandhi was partial towards Muslims and his policies were leading to the decline of Hindus in India.


The prosecution argued that Nathu Ram's statement was inadmissible as evidence since it was not made under oath. The trial court agreed with the prosecution and did not consider Nathu Ram's statement as evidence.The trial court convicted Nathu Ram and Apte of murder and sentenced them to death. They both appealed to the Punjab High Court, which upheld their conviction and sentence.


Nathu Ram then filed an appeal in the Federal Court, which was the highest court of appeal in India at the time. The Federal Court heard the appeal and considered Nathu Ram's statement as evidence. The Federal Court also considered the issue of whether Nathu Ram's statement was made voluntarily. Nathu Ram argued that he was under emotional distress at the time of making the statement and that it was not made voluntarily.The Federal Court considered the circumstances under which Nathu Ram made the statement and the nature of the statement itself. The court found that the statement was made voluntarily and that Nathu Ram had a clear understanding of the consequences of his actions.


The Federal Court also considered Nathu Ram's defence that he killed Gandhi because he believed that Gandhi was responsible for the partition of India. The court rejected this defence, stating that Nathu Ram's actions were a result of his own hatred and fanaticism, and not due to any external influence. The Federal Court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Nathu Ram and Apte. The court also noted that the assassination of Gandhi was a heinous crime and that the punishment for such a crime should serve as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to commit similar acts.


Trial and Verdict

The trial of Nathuram Godse and the co-conspirators began on May 27, 1948, at the Red Fort in Delhi. The trial lasted for a total of 149 days, during which the prosecution presented evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. The defense argued that Godse was not guilty of the charges and that he had acted out of his own free will.


The case was heard by a special court consisting of three judges, namely Justice Atma Charan, Justice P.B. Kher and Justice H.R. Khanna. The prosecution relied on the testimonies of witnesses and the recovery of the weapons used in the assassination. The defense argued that Godse was not guilty of the charges and that he had acted out of his own free will.


The judges delivered their verdict on February 10, 1949. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were found guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. They were sentenced to death by hanging, while the other conspirators were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment.


Positive Aspects for the Plaintiff

Despite being found guilty, Nathuram Godse, the plaintiff in the case, displayed remarkable courage and conviction during the trial. He represented himself in court and argued his case with passion and eloquence. He claimed that he had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi because he believed that the leader's policies would lead to the destruction of the Hindu community in India.


Godse's defense was unique in that he argued that he had acted out of his own free will and that his actions were not motivated by any external factors. He claimed that he had acted on his own conscience and that he was willing to face the consequences of his actions. His arguments, though controversial, were convincing enough to sway the opinions of many in the courtroom.


Godse's conviction and his willingness to accept the consequences of his actions made him a hero to many in the Hindu community. His defense was seen as a brave attempt to defend the interests of the community and to challenge the authority of the Indian government.


Judgment

On November 8, 1949, the court delivered its judgment in the case of Nathu Ram v. Godse. The court found Godse guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. Along with Godse, Narayan Apte and six others were also found guilty and sentenced to death for their involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.


Critical Analysis

The case of Nathu Ram v. Godse is a significant landmark in India's legal history, not just for its historical importance but also for its legal implications. The trial was widely publicized and garnered international attention, with the world watching as the Indian judiciary worked to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. One of the main issues raised during the trial was the question of whether Godse's actions could be justified on the grounds of political ideology. Godse argued that he had killed Gandhi in the best interests of the country, as he believed that Gandhi's policies were detrimental to India's progress. However, the court held that such actions were not acceptable in a democratic society, regardless of the political ideology behind them.

Another important aspect of the trial was the way in which the Indian legal system handled the case. The trial was conducted in a transparent and fair manner, with both the prosecution and the defense being given equal opportunities to present their cases. The verdict was based on evidence presented during the trial, and the judgment was delivered after a thorough analysis of the evidence. The judgment in Nathu Ram v. Godse is also significant for the way in which it reaffirmed the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society. The court made it clear that no individual or group can take the law into their own hands, no matter how strongly they believe in their cause. The court's decision to sentence Godse and his co-conspirators to death was a clear indication that the Indian legal system would not tolerate acts of violence and terrorism, regardless of the political ideology behind them.


Conclusion

The case of Nathu Ram v. Godse is a landmark in India's legal history, and its significance extends beyond the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The trial was a clear indication that the Indian legal system would not tolerate acts of violence and terrorism, no matter how strongly they were believed to be in the best interests of the country. The verdict in the case reaffirmed the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society and set a precedent for future cases involving political violence. The case raised important questions about the admissibility of statements made by the accused and the nature of the defence of political motive. The Federal Court's decision to consider Nathu Ram's statement as evidence and its rejection of the defence of political motive showed that the rule of law and the principles of justice would not be undermined by political fanaticism or hatred.

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