In the realm of criminal justice, there are certain crimes that elicit immediate
and unanimous revulsion. They push societal norms' boundaries, challenging our
sense of decency and morality. Necrophilia, the act of engaging in sexual acts
with a deceased body, is one such taboo that haunts our imagination.
While Indian society grapples with an array of criminal offences, it is
perplexing to note the absence of specific legal provisions addressing
Necrophilia in the Indian Penal Code. This gap in the legal landscape has
recently come to the forefront with a recent judgment by the Karnataka High
Court, reigniting the long-overdue conversation on the urgent need for criminal
justice reforms in India.
In this article, we delve into the subject of Necrophilia and its unsettling
absence within the Indian Penal Code. We explore the psychological and legal
dimensions of this taboo practice, unraveling its societal implications and the
lacunae in our legal system. The Karnataka High Court judgment serves as a
catalyst, propelling us to examine the pressing need for reform.
By navigating the complexities surrounding Necrophilia and its legal
ramifications, we aim to shed light on the dark silence that currently surrounds
this issue in Indian law. Our goal is to ignite meaningful dialogue and prompt
action towards the inclusion of specific provisions addressing Necrophilia
within the framework of criminal justice reforms in India.
Necrophilia, a phenomenon that resides at the intersection of psychology and
criminal behaviour, encompasses a range of sexual activities involving deceased
bodies. While it is difficult to fathom and confront, understanding the
psychological aspects of Necrophilia is crucial for comprehending its complexity
and addressing it within the realm of criminal justice.
Necrophilia is a term derived from the Greek words philios (attraction to/love)
and nekros (dead body) and involves the sexual attraction to a dead body.
Psychologically, Necrophilia is often classified as a paraphilic disorder. The
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the
American Psychiatric Association, defines paraphilic disorders as persistent
patterns of atypical sexual interests and behaviors that cause distress or
impairment to the individual or harm to others. Necrophilia, considered one of
the rarest paraphilias, involves an individual's intense and recurrent sexual
attraction to corpses.
DSM-5 further distinguishes Necrophilia into two subtypes: "genuine necrophilia"
and "fantasy necrophilia." Genuine Necrophilia refers to individuals who engage
in sexual acts with actual corpses, often driven by a desire for physical
contact and gratification. In contrast, fantasy necrophilia involves individuals
who are primarily sexually aroused by the thought or fantasy of engaging in
sexual acts with corpses but do not act upon these fantasies in reality.
Psychologists and researchers have proposed various theories to understand the
underlying factors contributing to necrophilic behavior. These theories range
from psychoanalytic explanations, emphasizing unresolved childhood conflicts, to
biological and neurological perspectives, exploring abnormalities in brain
structures and neurotransmitter imbalances.
By delving into the psychological definitions provided by the DSM-5 and
examining the existing theories, we can begin to unravel the intricate layers of
necrophilia and gain insight into the motivations and compulsions that drive
individuals to engage in such aberrant behavior. Such understanding is essential
for shaping effective criminal justice reforms that address the treatment,
prevention, and legal repercussions of Necrophilia in a manner that promotes
both public safety and compassion for all parties involved.
The Legal Landscape in India:
The Indian Penal Code (IPC), enacted in 1860, serves as the primary legal
framework for addressing criminal offences in India. While the IPC encompasses a
wide range of sexual offences, including rape and unnatural offences, it
strikingly lacks specific provisions addressing Necrophilia, the act of engaging
in sexual acts with deceased bodies.
Section 375 of the IPC defines and criminalizes rape, providing legal protection
for living individuals against sexual assault. However, the absence of any
explicit reference to sexual acts with dead bodies within the provisions of rape
reflects a significant gap in the legal framework. This omission raises
questions about the adequacy of the IPC in addressing the complexities and
sensitivities surrounding Necrophilia.
Additionally, Section 297 of the IPC deals with offences related to the
desecration of human remains, including burial grounds and tombs. However, it
does not explicitly mention Necrophilia or address the specific act of engaging
in sexual acts with dead bodies. This further highlights the legislative
oversight and the absence of a dedicated provision to tackle necrophilic
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code states that engaging in voluntary carnal
intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal is
punishable by imprisonment. However, applying this section to Necrophilia poses
challenges. The first requirement is that the act must be voluntary, but it is
difficult to determine voluntariness in cases of Necrophilia. Prosecuting
Necrophilia as rape hinges on establishing whether the sexual intercourse was
consensual, which raises the complex question of whether a corpse can give
The second requirement is that the act must be "unnatural," meaning it deviates
from procreative intercourse or is uncommon. Necrophilia prima facie falls under
the category of acts against the order of nature, as it does not involve
The third requirement is that the act must involve a man or woman. While corpses
are no longer living, they are still considered "human," satisfying this
condition. Therefore, as a last resort, Section 377 could potentially be applied
if all the conditions are met.
Moreover, Section 377 itself underwent substantial legal scrutiny and was
subject to revision by the Supreme Court of India. In a landmark judgment in
Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the Supreme Court decriminalized
consensual homosexual acts, effectively narrowing the scope of Section 377. The
Court recognized the importance of personal autonomy, privacy, and dignity and
held that sexual acts between consenting adults should not be criminalized based
on their sexual orientation.
Given this context, prosecuting someone for Necrophilia under Section 377 would
face significant legal challenges. The section's revision and the Supreme
Court's emphasis on consent and personal autonomy make it difficult to apply
Section 377 to non-consensual acts with deceased bodies.
In the context of the legal protection and dignity accorded to deceased bodies,
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution assumes significance. Article 21
guarantees the fundamental right to life and personal liberty, encompassing the
right to dignity even in death. The Supreme Court of India has consistently
recognized and affirmed the importance of preserving the dignity of dead bodies
in two notable judgments.
In the judgment of P. Rathinam v. Union of India
, the Supreme Court held that
the right to dignity extends beyond the realm of the living and includes respect
for the dead. Similarly, in the case of Paramanand Katara v. Union of India
Court reaffirmed the significance of maintaining the dignity of dead bodies and
emphasized the need for appropriate laws and guidelines to ensure the protection
of this right. In Ramji Singh and Mujeeb Bhai Vs. State of U.P. & Ors, the
Allahabad High Court contended that a person's right to life includes the right
of the dead body to be treated with the same respect that he would have deserved
if he were alive.
The absence of specific provisions addressing Necrophilia within the IPC,
coupled with Sections 297, 375 and 377's lack of reference to such acts,
underscores the urgent need for criminal justice reforms in India. Such reforms
should encompass the inclusion of dedicated provisions criminalizing
Necrophilia, thereby filling the legislative void and providing a comprehensive
legal framework to address this abhorrent practice while upholding the dignity
of the deceased.
The Karnataka High Court Judgment:
Recently around May, the issue of Necrophilia and its legal implications gained
significant attention due to a groundbreaking judgment by the Karnataka High
Court. The case brought to light the absence of specific provisions addressing
Necrophilia in the Indian Penal Code and sparked a renewed debate on the need
for legal reform.
In the aforementioned judgment, a 21-year-old woman was brutally murdered, after
which the accused proceeded to engage in sexual acts with her deceased body. The
trial Court framed charges against the accused for murder and rape under
Sections 302 and 376 of the IPC. The Court levied a fine of Rs. 50,000 for
murder and life imprisonment. He was further sentenced to another 10 years of
rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 25,000. Upon appeal, however, when it
came to the charge of "raping" the victim's dead body, the Karnataka High Court
acquitted the accused, reasoning that there was no provision in the IPC to
punish him for such an act.
The High Court acknowledged that the accused had engaged in sexual intercourse
with the deceased body but argued that the provisions of Sections 375 and 377 of
the IPC, which address rape and unnatural offences, respectively, did not apply
in this context. The Court determined that the dead body could not be considered
a human or a person under these sections.
According to the Court, rape must involve a living person who can give consent
or protest against the act. A dead body lacks the ability to provide consent,
protest, or experience feelings of outrage. Consequently, the Court labelled the
act of engaging in sexual intercourse with a dead body as Necrophilia, which is
not explicitly criminalized under the IPC.
In conclusion, the Karnataka High Court, while upholding the conviction for
murder, acquitted the accused of raping the victim's dead body based on the
interpretation that the IPC provisions addressing rape and unnatural offences
did not apply in this specific circumstance. The Court's reasoning rested on the
notion that rape requires the involvement of a living person capable of
providing consent or protesting the act.
Exploring the Ramifications:
The absence of explicit provisions criminalizing Necrophilia in the Indian Penal
Code (IPC) carries significant ramifications for society, the bereaved families,
and the overall perception of justice. By delving into these ramifications, we
can better understand the importance of addressing this legislative gap.
One significant consequence of the absence of specific laws against Necrophilia
is the lack of legal recourse for the families of the deceased. The act of
Necrophilia not only violates the dignity and sanctity of the deceased but also
inflicts emotional trauma and distress upon their loved ones. Without clear
legal provisions, bereaved families are left without adequate legal protection
and the ability to seek justice for their deceased loved ones.
Furthermore, the absence of explicit criminalization can lead to moral and
ethical dilemmas within society. It raises questions about the boundaries of
acceptable behaviour, the protection of societal values, and the impact on
public trust in the justice system. Failure to address Necrophilia in the legal
framework can erode the public's confidence in the ability of the law to protect
their interests and uphold fundamental principles of justice.
Additionally, the absence of specific provisions can hinder the effective
investigation and prosecution of necrophilic acts. Law enforcement agencies may
face challenges in establishing the criminal nature of such offences and may
struggle to gather sufficient evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This creates a gap in the legal response to a heinous act that demands
accountability and deterrence.
While India currently lacks specific provisions criminalizing Necrophilia,
several international jurisdictions and frameworks have established legal
frameworks to address this abhorrent act. By examining these international
models, India can gain insights into potential approaches for reform.
One such example is the United Kingdom, which includes Necrophilia as an offence
under Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This provision deems "sexual
penetration of a corpse" as a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment
ranging from six months to two years. The inclusion of Necrophilia as a distinct
offence demonstrates the UK's recognition of the need to address and deter such
The United States does not have any Federal Laws related to
Necrophilia, but they have left it to individual states to decide in this
regard. For example, Florida in the U.S.A penalizes Necrophilia as a
second-degree felony, Arizona penalizes Necrophilia as a class 4 felony, Hawaii
penalizes Necrophilia under a misdemeanour, and Alaska penalizes Necrophilia as
a class A misdemeanour. Likewise, other states in the U.S.A. also have their own
provisions to deal with Necrophilia.
In Canada, Section 182 of the Criminal Code of Canada, 1985 makes Necrophilia
punishable. The punishment in Canada is imprisonment for a term of not more than
five years. The law in Canada appears to be similar though not identical, to
Section 297; likewise, in New Zealand, Section 150 of the Crimes Act, 1961
serves imprisonment for two years to any person doing any act on the corpse,
whether buried or unburied, to harm its dignity. Further, Section 14 of the
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 prohibits
Necrophilia in South Africa.
Article 16 (II paragraph) of the Geneva Convention IV of 1949 stipulates that
parties to a conflict should, to the extent possible given military
considerations, facilitate measures to protect the deceased against ill
treatment. This provision recognizes the need to ensure that even in times of
armed conflict, the dignity of the deceased is upheld.
Additionally, the UN Commission on Human Rights, in a Resolution adopted in
2005, emphasized the significance of dignified handling and proper management of
human remains. The resolution specifically highlights the importance of
respecting the needs of families in this context. This recognition further
strengthens the call for the proper handling, management, and disposal of human
remains, emphasizing the fundamental principles of respect, dignity, and
The Need for Legal Reform:
The absence of specific provisions criminalizing Necrophilia in the Indian Penal
Code (IPC) calls for urgent legal reform to address this legislative gap.
Several compelling arguments support the inclusion of dedicated laws that
explicitly criminalize necrophilic acts.
- Upholding the Dignity of the Deceased:
Necrophilia violates the fundamental right to dignity, even in death. Recognizing this right is essential for respecting the autonomy and value of the deceased individual. By explicitly criminalizing Necrophilia, the law sends a clear message that such acts are not only morally repugnant but also legally unacceptable, providing a crucial safeguard for the dignity of the deceased.
- Protection of Public Sentiment and Societal Values:
Criminalizing necrophilia reflects the preservation of societal values and reinforces public sentiment against acts that are considered abhorrent and contrary to social norms. By enacting specific provisions, society asserts its stance against the desecration of the deceased, reinforcing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and safeguarding the collective conscience.
- Providing Justice for Bereaved Families:
Explicit laws addressing Necrophilia offer a legal recourse and justice mechanism for the families of the deceased. By acknowledging the harm caused to the bereaved and providing avenues for legal redress, the law affirms its commitment to protecting the interests of those affected by such acts. It recognizes the emotional trauma inflicted upon the families and offers a means to seek justice and closure.
- Effective Investigation and Prosecution:
Specific provisions criminalizing Necrophilia enable law enforcement agencies to more effectively investigate and prosecute cases. The clarity in the law facilitates evidence collection, streamlines legal procedures, and ensures that those involved in necrophilic acts can be held accountable under the law. It strengthens the ability of the justice system to respond to these heinous crimes and provides a deterrent effect against potential offenders.
The absence of specific provisions addressing Necrophilia in the Indian Penal
Code (IPC) highlights the need for comprehensive legal reforms. The recent
Karnataka High Court judgment, which acquitted an accused of Necrophilia due to
the lack of specific legislation, underscores the urgency to address this
In light of the points discussed above, it is imperative for India to introduce
dedicated provisions in the IPC that explicitly criminalize Necrophilia. Such
reforms would act as a deterrent, protect the dignity of the deceased, offer
justice to the victims, and align with societal values. Thorough deliberation,
consultation with legal experts, and consideration of international precedents
will be crucial in drafting comprehensive legislation that addresses the
complexities and sensitivities surrounding Necrophilia.
By enacting appropriate laws, India can ensure that the legal system upholds the
principles of fairness, justice, and human dignity, providing a robust framework
to prevent and punish this abhorrent crime. It is essential to recognize the
urgency of legal reform and advocate for comprehensive legislation that
unequivocally condemns and criminalizes Necrophilia in the pursuit of a just and