Necrophilia and the Dignity of the Dead


When Oscar Wilde quoted “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace” The Irish poet would have never imagined that years after his death the ongoing barbarous acts being performed on the dead and the violation of the peace and serenity, he so romanticizes in the idea of death would transpire. Had he known the current state of affairs, then this is not how he would have described death instead he would have pitied the dead for they have people to cry for them but not laws strong enough to punish the perpetrators who violate their souls. In the present paper, the scholar attempts to elucidate the bizarre act of necrophilia and the dilemma of the law on providing justice due to the lack of inclusivity in the already existing provisions and the absence of exclusive provisions in the law for fighting the evil of necrophilia. The paper also tries to discuss the limitations of law for dealing with the challenge of punishing the act of necrophilia while highlighting the judgements given by the Hon’ble Court for the rights and dignity of the dead and the non-violation of their sanctity. In Lois McMaster Bujold’s words, “The dead cannot cry out for justice, it is the duty of the living to do so for them.” Hence, the million-dollar question arises, are we doing justice to the dead?


Necrophilia, rape, sexual intercourse, dead, deceased.


The subject of necrophilia, a term derived from the Greek roots “nekros” and “philios,” has a dark and disturbing history that spans back centuries. Within the sphere of human sexuality, the notion of sexual attraction to the deceased is a baffling and repugnant aberration. This uncommon paraphilic illness has been examined and classified in contemporary psychiatric literature, with its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) confirming its presence as a psychological condition.

Rare instances of necrophilic conduct have been documented throughout history by several tribes and civilizations. It has been evident that some actions are prohibited throughout many periods, from Greek mythical stories through Greco-Roman events and even into the Middle periods. It is important to stress that these actions were not socially acceptable and frequently had negative social and legal consequences.

In modern times, necrophilia is widely denounced as a heinous violation of the deceased’s sanctity and dignity. Human civilization’s ethical roots require that all persons, both alive and departed, be treated with respect and regard. Sexual actions with a corpse are commonly seen as a defilement of the body and an appalling violation of common decency.

The unanimous agreement that necrophilia is a criminal act stems from the belief that the deceased cannot give consent to any sexual activities. Consent, a fundamental principle in any consensual sexual relationship, becomes an impossible consideration in these circumstances. This lack of consent further compounds the heinous nature of the act and underscores the need for strict legal prohibitions.

It is crucial to emphasize that the overwhelming majority of individuals find necrophilia deeply disturbing and repugnant. Psychological professionals and the broader community recognize it as a highly abnormal and troubling disorder. As such, efforts are made to study and understand the underlying causes of such deviant behaviour in hopes of providing effective treatment and prevention.

Research Methodology

This paper is illustrative and the study of the topic is based on a few secondary sources for elucidating the act of necrophilia, its position in India and laws relating to it. Secondary sources of information were used for research namely websites, newspapers, judgements and articles.

Review of literature

Questioning The Unpredictability; A Legal Insight into Necrophiliaby Jay Gajbhiye[1]

In this paper, the author makes a comparison between legislation in India and other countries for dealing with necrophilia. The probable defences available to the accused have also been highlighted which further tells the reader about the fundamental problem with the unpunished act of necrophilia at the moment. The psychological reasons have also been stated in this paper which explains why such acts happen and what is the mentality of the offenders. The author has tried to connect the chain of cases which lead from murder to necrophilia. Lastly, the author justifies the reason for burning the corpses and their burial in hard granite and tombs as mentioned in the religious rites and that is for avoiding the breach of the dead bodies by the necrophiles. He has also suggested that the Parliament better criminalise it through amendments before a case with the gravity of the Nirbhaya rape case emerges which drives the aggression of the people to save the entire democracy from any form of harm that may arise in this context.

The conundrum of ‘Necrophilia’ in India: Broadening the sphere of punishment is demanded by Rohan Mishra[2]

In this paper, the author demonstrates how the cases of necrophilia are in an uproar, especially during the second wave of COVID-19 when many dead bodies were abandoned due to fear of contamination and yet the offenders are not being made liable for their acts and they get exempted due to the deficiencies in the existing Indian laws. Various sections dealing with sexual offences, harming the nobility of the dead, trespassing on the burial grounds and unnatural offences have also been discussed. The author proposes the requisite amendment which can be made to the prevailing sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 so that the miscreants can be punished. The judicial pronouncements relating to the subject matter of necrophilia have also been discussed by the author where he tries to establish that the judiciary interprets the right to dignity even after death under the ambit of the fundamental right given in Article 21. The guidelines and covenants of the international framework are also made evident. The author concluded while suggesting that new amendments should be introduced into the law and cognizance of serious crimes such as necrophilia should be taken.

Tracing necrophilia In India

Cases relating to the sexual abuse of the dead have been observed throughout history and now with growing awareness of psychological disorders, more such crimes have come to light. The first ever instance that brought necrophilia to the surface and shook the conscience of the society at large was the ‘Nithari serial killing case’[3] of 2006 where the convicts kidnapped the deceased, raped her when she was unconscious and then murdered her. A case of Guwahati High Court discloses that the accused who was residing in the same house as the deceased after allegedly kidnapping a seven-year-old minor girl, continued raping her even after her death. A case in Panipat[4] came up where two middle-aged men abducted, murdered and indulged in necrophilia with the corpse of a minor girl and, in this case, the court observed that it was as if savages had committed the said crime. An incident[5] shook the people of Palghar, Maharashtra when the news of a 32-year-old woman who was murdered and afterwards raped became known to people. Necrophilia cases are widespread, not limited to women, as men are also victims. Recent news from Delhi highlights this alarming trend. Despite being discovered earlier, cases have not decreased but increased significantly. The actual number of unreported incidents is likely shocking. To address this, criminalizing necrophilia and punishing offenders is an urgent necessity.

Current Outlook in India

In the recent case[6] of Rangaraju versus the State of Karnataka, the accused charged with offences of murder and further rape of the deceased was acquitted by the Karnataka High Court from the charges of rape because the contention of the defence counsel was based on a loophole present in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter, ‘IPC’). The court observed that the provision of Section 46 of IPC defines death and the word “death” indicates only the death of a human being unless the context suggests the contrary. The words that have been used here indicate that only a living person against that person’s will can be raped but a dead body cannot. A dead body can neither give its consent nor protest against rape, it cannot be subjected to the fear of an unlawful bodily injury and it does not have any feelings or emotions towards such an act being performed to it. The essence of guilt of rape consists of the intention of the accused and the feelings of the victim of the rape. Hence, sexual intercourse on the body of a deceased person is nothing but necrophilia.

In addition to it, the court held that in the given case, the accused had sexual intercourse with the dead body after murdering the victim. Therefore, neither does it not fall in the category of rape punishable under Section 376 nor is it an unnatural offence as defined under Section 377 of IPC. At the most, it can be considered as sadism or necrophilia but no offence is made out to punish the same under Section 376 of IPC.

Furthermore, how such offences are committed is utterly gruesome and barbaric and the bereaved turn to the law for seeking justice for the deceased but to no avail. It is disheartening that an act which is ethically wrong as per the collective conscience of the society can go unpunished based on a technicality and as a result, ties back the hands of the law from doing justice to the deceased.

The Dignity of the Dead, Constitution and Judgements

The Article 21 of the Constitution of India not only promises the Right to life[7] but ensures the Right to live with human dignity[8] as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a landmark case while asserting that “therein are included all aspects of life which make a person’s life meaningful, complete and worth living”. In the case of Kharak Singh versus the State of Uttar Pradesh,[9] the ambit of the Right to life was widened to include the Right to life with Human Dignity and not merely animal existence. This case laid the foundation for another aspect of Article 21 and that is: the Right to life also includes the Right to die with dignity[10] as held in the landmark case of Common Cause (A Regd. Society) versus Union of India,2018. It is hence made clear that the law recognises the Right to die with dignity. However, does it recognise the Right to dignity after death?

In the case of Jamuna Das Paras Ram versus State of M. P,[11] the court held that the word ‘person’ cannot exclude the body of a human being who was killed in the course of some transaction in which a crime was committed. In the most valuable judgement of Parmanand Katara versus the Union of India[12], the Supreme Court held that the word ‘person’ is not confined to an alive person and can also include a dead person in some exceptional cases. The Apex Court restated in the case of Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan versus the Union of India[13] that the dignity of the deceased person ought to be preserved and honoured while ensuring them a decent burial right. Lastly, in the case of Amrutha vs The Commissioner, the right of privacy of the deceased person was decided to be existent and was further observed that their souls should not be disturbed. 

Irrespective of the fact that there has been a great deal of judicial pronouncements regarding the dignity of the deceased, there has not been made a strict legislation in pursuance of these pronouncements and no deterrent effect can thereby be seen in the absence of such legislation. Although as per the National Human Rights Commission, the state must protect the rights of the dead and prevent crime over their bodies. The commission also issued an ‘Advisory for Upholding the Dignity and Protecting the Rights of the Dead’[14] and it specifically mentions that physical exploitation of the dead bodies in any form will be considered a violation of the elementary rights of the deceased. In the words of the international framework, the dignity of humans is at the heart of international human rights laws. The laws and covenants dealing specifically with the solemnity of the dead have emanated from international conventions, declarations and agencies from time to time, the Article 16 (II paragraph) of the Geneva Convention 1949 IV, the UN Commission on Human Rights in a Resolution adopted in 2005, the international humanitarian law: Article 130(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention; to name a few. It emphasized the importance of proper management and disposal of human remains in a dignified manner.

Why necrophilia goes unpunished?

There are provisions of law for dealing with odd and bizarre crimes but the law in itself is full of lacunae which makes the application of these provisions to necrophilia a challenge for the prosecutors, it will be tackled one by one to see why there is a need for strict laws to punish this inhumane act. As of now, the miscreants are tried under sections 297, 377 and 511 of IPC for committing the act of necrophilia but these sections are not able to cover the said act under the scope of an offence. Section 297 of the IPC postulates that it is an offence if a person trespasses the funeral grounds and offers indignity to any corpse to hurt another person’s feelings and causes disturbance to the kin of the dead[15]. Such an act is punishable with imprisonment for up to one year or with a fine or both. The language of this section signifies that it brings punishment in cases of trespassing on the burial grounds and defamation of the dead while giving it a religious background. It becomes difficult to convict the offender under this section because it is possible that the crime did not happen on a burial ground i.e., there was no trespassing and even if the criterion is fulfilled; the punishment is not deterrent enough to further stop such crimes from happening again. Coming to section 377 of IPC, even though it deals with unnatural offences and includes appropriate deterrent punishment for the same, fails to bring the offence of necrophilia under its umbrella. It includes voluntary carnal intercourse with any man, woman or animal against the order of nature. The punishment for the same is either imprisonment for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and also includes a fine.[16]

It is also made clear in this section that penetration alone is sufficient to make this act fall under the category of offence so described.

As per the moral code, necrophilia seems like an act against nature’s order and therefore the placement of necrophilia under this section seems right due to the presence of the words such as ‘against the order of nature’. However, the word ‘voluntarily’ makes it difficult to place it here because a dead body can neither consent to nor refuse an act being done to it, subsequently establishing the fact that the act was voluntary or not becomes impossible.

Section 511 of the IPC punishes an “attempt to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment”[17]. In this scenario the mens rea due to the failed attempt is punished as the actus reus could not reach the stage of completion and hence the crime was not committed yet the attempt was there. Had the attempt been successful, the crime would have been committed for example: in case the deceased had not died and was alive, the accused would have committed the offence of rape or sodomy. The essential of this provision is mens rea and the degree of guilt is equivalent to actual commission because the act only failed to become an offence due to the unsuccessful attempt. The factor of guilty mind or the intention to commit either rape or sodomy is present in the case of necrophilia and hence this offence very much satisfies the essentials of this section and can be used for the conviction of the miscreants.

Due to the lack of inclusivity in the already existent provisions and the absence of provisions which exclusively deal with the act of taking pleasure by indulging in sexual intercourse with a corpse, the accused are not punished and the dead receive no justice. Therefore, either making amendments to the provisions to include necrophilia in the list of offences or making new provisions for the same is the absolute necessity for bringing justice to the dead victims and for their dignity.

Position in other countries

There are countries all around the globe that recognise necrophilia as a serious offence and have also penalized the same. As per Section 70 of the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 of the UK, it is an offence if a person intentionally (knowingly or recklessly) sexually penetrates any of his body parts into any part of a dead person. The laws of New Zealand make any kind of act on the corpse (buried or unburied) to harm its dignity punishable act with imprisonment of up to two years. Likewise, Canada makes necrophilia punishable and South Africa prohibits it.

Suggestions and conclusion

After much research and scrutiny over the matter of necrophilia, it can be concluded that the Indian laws are insufficient in characterizing necrophilia as a sexual or unnatural offence in itself and hence they are incapable of safeguarding the dignity and inviolability of the dead. The Indian legal system is a combination of all the major legal systems of the world and therefore, it seems only apt that we adopt the statutes or provisions that other countries like the UK, Canada and South Africa have implemented for dealing with necrophilia and such perpetrators. Although their provisions also lack definite application which is evident from the recent case of David Fuller who admitted to raping 100 corpses. It must be noted that he was not caught after his first or second or even tenth necro coitus but it went on until the gravity of the situation became really serious and a hundred corpses had already been raped when he was finally convicted. The time has now come to widen the horizons of the offence against the bodies of the dead, recognise and penalize the act of necrophilia by the criminal jurisprudence of our nation moreover to set an ideal example so that other countries can follow in our footsteps. For solving this purpose, society needs to be educated and made aware of such heinous acts while sensitizing those who work in places where dead bodies are kept preliminarily or are buried after completing the rites and rituals. The law urgently needs to address the issue of necrophilia, a disturbing psychosexual disorder that preys on people’s unusual desires. To prevent further occurrences, a comprehensive study of necrophiles’ psychology and corresponding legal measures are crucial. This is essential to bring justice to the deceased and preserve their dignity, especially as such cases are increasing.

Divyangana Chauhan                                                                                

1st Year Student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University

[1]Jay Gajbhiye, Questioning The Unpredictability; A Legal Insight into Necrophilia, Legal service India E-Journal (July 19, 2023, 3:16 PM), Questioning The Unpredictability; A Legal Insight Into Necrophilia (

[2] Rohan Mishra, The conundrum of ‘Necrophilia’ in India: Broadening the sphere of punishment is demanded, Centre for Criminal Law Studies NLU, Jodhpur, The Criminal Law Blog (July 19, 2023, 3:22 PM),

[3]Surendra Koli v. State of U.P.,(2011) 4 SCC 80

[4] Bagish Jha, Panipat: 2 get death for 12-year-old girl’s rape, murder, Times of India (Feb 20, 2022, 07:33 AM),

[5] Shopkeeper murders woman after brawl on overpriced goods, rapes her corpse; arrested, India TV News Desk (July 04, 2020, 03:14 PM)

[6] Rangaraju v. State of Karnataka, (2023) SCC OnLine Kar 23para 13, 21, 22 and 23

[7] INDIA CONST. art 21, The Constitution

[8] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India(1978) AIR 597

[9] Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1962)

[10] Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India (2018) AIR SC 1665

[11] Jamuna Das Paras Ram v. State of M.P (1963) AIR MP 106

[12] Parmanand Katara v. Union of India (1989) AIR 2039, SCR (3) 997

[13] Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v Union of India (2002) 2 SCC 27

[14] National Human Rights Commission, Advisory for Upholding the Dignity and Protecting the Rights of the Dead, 1, 2 and 3(2021),

[15] Indian Penal Code,1860, § 297, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)

[16] Indian Penal Code,1860, § 377, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)

[17] Indian Penal Code, 1860, § 511, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)