What is meant by necrophilia? Is it an offense punishable in India right now?

Necrophilia means a grotesque desire or fascination with the dead, or more specifically, an erotic desire towards corpses. Is it an offense in India? What did the Karnataka High Court say in the matter? Let’s find out.

Astha Pasricha
Jun 4, 2023, 20:36 IST
What is necrophilia? Is it a crime in India?
What is necrophilia? Is it a crime in India?

A man was convicted of murder and rape, and when he filed a petition,  the Karnataka High Court held, on 30th May, that engaging in sexual intercourse with the dead body of a woman does not account for the offense of rape.

Rape is a punishable offense as per Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


Facts of the case (Rangaraju Vajapeyi v. State of Karnataka)

A 21-year-old lady was coming back home post her computer classes on June 25, 2015. The accused, Rangaraju, held the lady and shut her mouth. He then dragged the 21-year-old to a bush nearby. Next, the man cut the lady’s throat and thereby murdered her. Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code punishes this offense. 

After murdering the lady, the man raped her.

The police registered the case. They got a voluntary statement from Rangaraju (the accused). Next, the police filed the chargesheet. The magistrate took cognizance of the matter and sent it to the session judge. The judge creates charges against Rangaraju (the accused) for two offenses, murder, and rape, under Section 302 and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code respectively.

After carefully studying all the shreds of evidence presented, the prosecution firmly proved that the accused committed the offense of murder and later “raped” the victim. The session’s judge sentenced life imprisonment to the convicted, along with a fine of Rs. 50,000 for murder. For the offense of rape committed to the victim’s body, the accused was sentenced to yet another 10 years of imprisonment along with Rs. 25,000 fine.

As a consequence of this, the convict filed an appeal to the Karnataka High Court.


The court’s decision on the matter

A bench of Justices Venkatesh Naik and B. Veerappa suggested that the Centre must amend the Indian Penal Code to safeguard the dignity of the dead, however, partially allowing the appeal of the convict in the murder and subsequent rape of the victim.


The trial court’s sentence of life imprisonment for the offense of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code was upheld by the Karnataka High Court. However, the Karnataka High Court acquitted the convict from Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, with the rationale that there is no provision in the Indian Penal Code that punishes the convict for raping a dead body.


“Admittedly, the accused had sexual intercourse on the dead body,” the Kerala High Court said. However, it is yet to check if the act would be treated as an offense under Section 375 (rape) and Section 377 (unnatural offenses).

However, later the court said that “A careful reading of the provisions of Sections 375 and 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes it clear that the dead body cannot be called as human or person. Thereby, the provisions of Section 375 or 377 of the Indian Penal Code would not attract…”


The court also said that no offense that can be punished under Section 376 (punishment for the offense of rape) had been committed by the convict. It further clarified by saying that  “sexual intercourse on a dead body is nothing but necrophilia.”


What is meant by necrophilia?

In the case of Rangaraju Vajpeyi v. State of Karnataka, the Karnataka High Court opined that necrophilia is a grotesque desire or fascination with the dead, or more specifically, an erotic desire towards corpses.

The DSM-IV classifies “Paraphilias” as a psychosexual disorder, which includes pedophilia, sexual masochism, exhibitionism, and necrophilia. The contributing factors behind this disorder could range from rage to experimentation, to lust, rather than habits or sexual necessity.

ALSO READ: Distinction between Murder and Culpable Homicide- EXPLAINED

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