Karnataka High Court Urges Central Government to Amend Section 377 IPC to Criminalize Sexual Intercourse with Dead Bodies

Karnataka High Court

Rangaraju v. State of Karnataka



Decided On 30-05-2023

Facts of the case-

Nagesh, the brother of the deceased Rathnamma, filed a complaint on 25.06.2015 stating that his sister had gone missing after attending computer classes. Later that day, he learned that a girl had been murdered in Doddahalla, and upon investigation, he discovered that the victim was his sister. It was revealed that she had been raped and murdered between 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm. Nagesh filed a complaint urging the police to apprehend and punish the culprits.

The jurisdictional police registered a case, conducted an investigation, and apprehended the accused. They recovered various pieces of evidence, including the victim’s belongings and items used in the crime. The accused was charged under Sections 302 (murder) and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code.

During the trial, the prosecution presented witnesses and submitted material documents and objects as evidence. The accused denied all allegations but chose not to present any defense evidence. The Sessions Judge examined the evidence and found the accused guilty of both charges. The judge sentenced the accused to life imprisonment for murder and ten years of rigorous imprisonment for rape, along with fines.

Against the judgement given by the session judge, the Convict file went to the High Court. The appellant in his appeal argued that the alleged act can be categorized as ‘necrophilia’, and since there is no specific provision in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalizes this act, it cannot be punished. 

In response, the prosecution opposed the plea and contended that the provisions of Section 375(a) and (c) of the IPC, which pertain to “sexual offenses,” were amended in 1983. As a result, engaging in sexual acts with a dead body falls under sexual offenses and is punishable under Section 376 of the IPC. 

The amicus curiae appointed in the case highlighted that while Indian criminal laws do not explicitly recognize ‘necrophilia’ as a standalone crime, there is growing recognition of human rights after a person’s death. He emphasized that Article 21 of the Constitution of India not only acknowledges the right to life with dignity and respect but also encompasses the right to die in a dignified manner and certain rights regarding post-death treatment, burial, and other related matters.

The main issues arises before the High Court for consideration in the present Criminal Appeal are as follows:

(i) Whether the appellant/accused has presented sufficient grounds to challenge the impugned judgment of conviction under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which resulted in a sentence of rigorous imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs. 50,000, with a default punishment of simple imprisonment for two years.

(ii) Whether engaging in rape on the dead body of a woman constitutes an offense punishable under Section 376 of the IPC, taking into account the specific facts and circumstances of the present case.

Relevant Provisions

Section (Indian Penal code, 1860) Related to
302 Punishment for murder
376 Punishment for rape


the court upheld the life imprisonment for the murder charge, it set aside the conviction for rape since there is no provision in the IPC to punish such an offense committed on a dead body. 

The Court also recommended that the Central Government amend or introduce new provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to criminalise sexual intercourse with dead bodies. 

The court observed that there have been instances of individuals, particularly those appointed to guard bodies in mortuaries of government and private hospitals, engaging in sexual acts with the deceased. Currently, there is no specific legislation in India to address such crimes against dead bodies.

The court suggested that the amended or new provisions should entail punishment of life imprisonment or imprisonment for a term up to ten years, along with the imposition of fines. It reasoned that sexual intercourse with a dead body qualifies as an unnatural offence under Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises voluntary carnal intercourse “against the order of nature” with a man, woman, or animal. However, it goes unpunished because the provision does not explicitly mention “dead body.”

To prevent offences against dead bodies, the court recommended the installation of CCTV cameras in the mortuaries of all government and private hospitals within six months. Additionally, the court instructed the state government to ensure proper mortuary hygiene, maintain the confidentiality of clinical records, safeguard the privacy of premises, eliminate physical and infrastructural barriers, and sensitize the staff on handling dead bodies and interacting with the deceased’s attendants.


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