This article on ‘Rape on Dead Body: Karnataka High Court Ruling’ was written by Mohammed Zaid Alam, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
In India, the act of rape on dead body is considered a criminal offense. The specific provision that deals with this offense is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). However, it’s important to note that Section 377 has been primarily used to address unnatural sexual acts and does not explicitly mention the offense of rape on a dead body. The punishment for the act of rape on dead body may be determined by interpreting relevant provisions of the IPC and legal principles established through judicial decisions.
In a recent ruling, the Karnataka High Court stated that engaging in rape on dead body does not fall under the offense of rape as defined by Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to the court, there is currently no provision within the IPC that specifically addresses this act.
The article discusses a recent ruling by the Karnataka High Court stating that engaging in rape on dead body does not fall under the offense of rape as defined by Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court noted that there is currently no specific provision in the IPC to address this act. The article also mentions the facts and laws related to the recent ruling.
The case before the Karnataka High Court
In a case that occurred on June 25, 2015, a 21-year-old woman was attacked while returning home from her computer class. The accused, Rangaraju, forcefully held her, gagged her, and took her to a nearby bush. He then proceeded to slit her throat, resulting in her death. This act is punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). After the police registered a case, they obtained a statement from the accused, and a charge sheet was filed. The matter was sent to the sessions judge, who framed charges against the accused for murder and rape under Sections 302 and 376 of the IPC, respectively.
After examining the evidence, the session’s judge found that the prosecution had successfully proven the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for both the murder and the subsequent act of “raping” the victim’s body. The accused was sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 50,000 for the murder. Additionally, he was given another 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 25,000 for the offense of raping the victim’s dead body. Subsequently, an appeal was filed before the Karnataka High Court.
The ruling by the High Court
The Karnataka High Court upheld the trial court’s decision to convict the accused and sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder under Section 302 of the IPC. However, the high court acquitted him under Section 376 for the act of “raping” the victim’s dead body, stating that the IPC does not provide for punishment in such cases.
The court acknowledged that the accused engaged in rape on dead body but questioned whether it would constitute an offense under Sections 375 (rape) and 377 (unnatural offenses) of the IPC. Upon careful examination of Sections 375 and 377, the court concluded that the dead body cannot be considered a human or a person. Consequently, the provisions of Section 375 or 377 would not apply. The court clarified that no offense punishable under Section 376 had occurred and described the act as necrophilia, which is sexual attraction towards corpses.
Referring to Section 46 of the IPC, the court highlighted that “death” refers to the death of a human being. Thus, rape must involve a living person, not a dead body. The court emphasized that a dead body cannot provide consent, protest against rape, or experience fear or outrage.
The court also relied on a 1989 Supreme Court ruling in the case of “Pt Parmanand Katara, Advocate vs Union of India,” which emphasized the need to maintain and respect the dignity of a dead body. The ruling stated that Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to dignity and fair treatment, which extends to a person’s body even after death. Additionally, the court referred to a 2021 advisory by the National Human Rights Commission, which emphasized the prohibition of physical exploitation or discrimination in the treatment of dead bodies and emphasized the right to a decent and timely burial.
The Karnataka High Court emphasized the need for the central government to take prompt action and amend Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to explicitly address offenses involving necrophilia. Alternatively, the court suggested introducing a separate legal provision that specifically criminalizes necrophilia, prescribing a punishment of up to 10 years of imprisonment along with a fine.
Furthermore, the court-mandated the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in morgues across Karnataka within six months. It directed the government to ensure hygiene, privacy, and the security of clinical records and information in these facilities. Additionally, the court emphasized the importance of sensitizing mortuary staff to handle such sensitive matters appropriately.
What is Necrophilia and its legal nature in India?
In the case of “Rangaraju @ Vajapeyi v. State of Karnataka,” the Karnataka High Court acknowledged that necrophilia refers to a morbid fascination with death and the dead, specifically an erotic attraction to corpses. The court noted that necrophilia is classified as a psychosexual disorder, categorized under the DSM-IV as one of several paraphilias, which include sexual interests or behaviours that deviate from societal norms.
Currently, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not explicitly mention necrophilia as a specific offense under sexual offenses. However, the court highlighted that it could potentially fall under Section 297 of the IPC, which deals with causing indignity to human corpses when trespassing into places for funeral rites or repositories for the remains of the dead. However, the court noted that Section 297 requires the act of causing indignity to be accompanied by an intention to wound feelings or insult religious sentiments. Additionally, the knowledge that someone’s feelings are likely to be hurt or their religion insulted by such an act would constitute an offense under Section 297.
The court observed that the present case did not fulfill the elements of Section 297, and therefore, the act could at most be considered sadism or necrophilia. It concluded that no offense was established under Section 376 of the IPC, which pertains to rape. The court also urged the central government to amend the law to address such acts.
In conclusion, the Karnataka High Court’s ruling stated that engaging in sexual intercourse with a deceased person’s body does not fall under the offense of rape as defined by Section 376 of the IPC. The court noted that there is currently no provision in the IPC to address this act. However, the court expressed the urgent need for the central government to amend the law to specifically address offenses related to necrophilia.
The court recommended two potential approaches for addressing this issue. Firstly, it suggested amending Section 377 of the IPC to include provisions concerning necrophilia. Alternatively, the court proposed introducing a separate legal provision that specifically criminalizes necrophilia, with a recommended punishment of up to 10 years of imprisonment along with a fine.
In addition to these legal recommendations, the court ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in morgues across Karnataka within six months. It also emphasized the importance of maintaining hygiene, privacy, and the security of clinical records and information in these facilities. Sensitizing mortuary staff to handle such sensitive situations with care and respect was another important aspect emphasized by the court. It is now up to the central government to consider these recommendations and take appropriate action to address the legal gaps and protect the dignity of the deceased.
- Sucheta, Government should either amend S. 377 IPC or bring in a new provision to make Necrophilia and sadism punishable with life imprisonment: Karnataka High Court, SCC Online, 1 June 2023, available at: https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2023/06/01/karnataka-high-court-recommends-central-government-make-law-on-necrophilia-legal-news/
- Mustafa Plumber, Rape On Woman’s Dead Body Will Not Attract Section 376 IPC: Karnataka High Court, LiveLaw, 31 May 2023, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/karnataka-high-court-rape-dead-body-sexual-assault-acquittal-necrophilia-section-376-ipc-229822
- Sexual assault on a dead body is not rape, will not attract Section 376 IPC: Karnataka High Court, Livemint, 5 June 2023, availalble at: https://www.livemint.com/news/india/sexual-assault-on-a-dead-body-is-not-rape-will-not-attract-section-376-ipc-karnataka-high-court-11685962038511.html