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Meaning of Person 

The term Person is derived from the Latin word ‘Persona’ it means those who are recognised by law as being capable of having legal rights and duties.

Definition : 

  1. Salmond – “ A person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and bound by legal duties.
    1. Savigny defines the term person as the subject or bearer of a right.
    1. According to Gray A person is an entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.
    1. According to Austin the term ‘person’ includes physical or natural person including every being which can be deemed human.

According to Section 11 of the Indian Penal code the word person includes any company or association, or body of Persons, whether Incorporated or not.

Historical Background of the Concept of ‘Person’

The term ‘person’ and ‘personality’ has a historical evolution. Roman law, Greek law and Hindu law, has used the concept too. 

In Roman law, the term had a specialized meaning, and it was synonymous with ‘caput’ means status. Thus, a slave had an imperfect persona. In later period it was denoting as a being or an entity capable of sustaining legal rights and duties. 

In ancient Roman Society, there was no problem of personality as the ‘family’ was the basic unit of the society and not the individual. The family consisted of a number of individuals, but all the powers were concentrated with ‘pater familias’ means the head of the family. If a head of the family dies, and there is an interval between his death and devolution of property on the heir who accepted inheritance, the property will vest in a person during the interval. This was called hereditas jacens which was developed by the Romans. The hereditas jacens is considered by some scholars as similar to legal personality. Hereditas jacens means the inheritance during the interval between death of the ancestor and the acceptance of the inheritance by the heir. Some scholars are not ready to agree with the views that it has some connection with present doctrine of legal personality, even if it is there, it may be in a very limited sense. There was a provision in Roman law that other institutions or group who had certain rights and duties were capable to exercise their legal rights through a representative.

Under Greek law, an animal or trees were tried in court for harm or death done to a human being. It can be said on the basis of this practice that these objects were subject to duties even though they may not possesses rights. This is an element of the attribution of personality.

Under early English law, there are some incidences in it had found that an animal or tress or inanimate objects had been tried in Court under law. The trees and animals were subject to duty but not rights. After 1846, this system has modified and it was made clear that animals or tresses are capable of possessing rights and duties; therefore, there is no question of personality.

Kinds of Persons :

There are two kinds of persons are as follows

  • Natural persons 
  • Legal persons ( legal persons are also known as juristic, fictitious or artificial persons )
  1. Natural Person : A natural person is a human being possessing natural personality. 
  2. According to Holland, a natural person is a human being as is regarded by the law as capable of rights and duties. 
  3. Requisite of normal human being is that he must be born alive moreover , he must possess essentially human characteristics. 
  4. Generally a person/human being who has a capacity to sue and be sued is person.
  5. Legal persons / Artificial persons : A legal person has a real existence but it’s personality is fictitious. A fictitious thing is that which does not exist in fact but which is deemed to exist in the eye of law.
  6. Example : Company or corporation, idol etc.

Law of status

Law of status is the law concerning the natural, the domestic and the extra domestic status of man in civilized society. The law of extra domestic status is the law that is concerned with matters and relations apart from those concerning the family. Thus this department of the law of status deals with the status of persons such as lunatics, aliens, deceased persons, lower animals etc.

These are persons who do not enjoy the status of legal personality but the society has some duties towards them.

  • Legal status of unborn persons

A child who is still in the womb of the mother is consider not technically legal person but by legal friction the foetus gets some legal rights and the society has certain duty to perform towards such unborn. There are certain laws in India which advocate an unborn child as a person and grants him certain rights some of which are as follows:

  1. Indian Penal Code, 1860 

Section 312 to section 316 of the Indian penal code deal with thaw relating to abortion. The medical termination of pregnancy act lays down various laws and procedure to be followed in order to get a child aborted.

Section 315 – This section of the IPC states that inflicting prenatal injury on a child possessing the capability of being born and where such injury affects it from being born amounts to an offence of child destruction.

  • Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 

Section 416 – This section of the CrPC states that in case any woman who is sentenced to death is found to be pregnant, an order to postpone the execution must be passed by the High Court, or if it deems it fit, the execution can be reduced to life imprisonment.

  • Transfer of Property Act, 1882 

Section 13 – This section of the said Act states that a property can be transferred for the benefit of an unborn person through the means of trust.

  • The Indian Succession Act, 1925 

Section 114 – This section provides for the creation of prior interest before the unborn child is made the owner of the corporeal or incorporeal property. However, no property will be deemed to be vested in the unborn child until he is born alive as per the Act. 

Under Hindu Law, an unborn child is deemed to be a living person for certain purposes. The rights of an unborn child that is in the womb of its mother are dealt with by Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. As per Mitakshara Law, in a Hindu Undivided Family, an unborn child will have an interest in coparcenary property. 

Under Mohammedan Law a gift in the name of a person who does not exist is void. 

  • The legal status of a minor

Minors are legal subjects, and their position in a legal and social society should be at the heart of the legal system. Their key characteristic is that they are unable to perform legal connections on their own thoroughly. This is due to their lack of total capacity as they enter essential legal relationships through their parents or someone who may replace their place.

Minors are natural persons with a legal identity. They are, however, deemed incapable of entering into a contract. In India, minors are usually under the age of 18 because they cannot comprehend the essence and implications of their acts.

Various provisions for a minor under Indian Laws

  1. Indian Contract Act, 1872

The person who is a citizen of India and whose age is under 18 years, then that person is called a minor. A minor is an incompetent person to enter into a contract. Any agreement made with the minor is void-ab-initio, i.e., void from the beginning. In the case of a minor agreement, the court cannot allow the specific performance of a contract because it is completely void.

  • Transfer of property act, 1882

A minor is not competent to transfer a property under this act, but A minor may accept an immovable property as a gift without his guardians’ intervention.

  • Indian Succession Act, 1925

Section 144 of the Indian succession act, 1925 provides for the creation of prior interest before the unborn person may be made the owner of the property. The person can create an interest in the name of the unborn child in a property. But that created interest of the property can only be vested after the unborn child is born alive.

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860

According to section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, a child below the age of 7 years old get a complete defence from any kind of criminal liability. A child below the age of 7 years old the child cannot be guilty of any offence. Because this age of a child cannot distinction between what is good or wrong. It works under the assumption that a child below the age of 7 years lacks the ability of understanding and unable to understand the nature and consequences of the act that he or she has done and the mens rea is not present in this case.

According to section 83 of the Indian Penal Code, there is a partial defence from the criminal liability conferred on child above the age of 7 years and below the age of 12 years. Age between the 7 years and 12 years is capable to understand the nature and consequences of the offence that he or she is done.

  • Legal Status of Lunatic and Drunken Person

 Status of lunatic and drunken person have some special position. They are natural persons and have legal identity but are not capable o enter into contract. If at the time of entering into a contract lunatic or drunken person is incapable of understanding the nature of contract, then they are considered to be incapable of entering into a contract.

Law of contract provisions for Lunatics

By virtue of S. 12 of Indian Contract Act 1872, a sane person can be said as person who while entering into a contract, understands the nature of contract and hence can form rational judgment regarding the same. Therefore we can say that a person is said to be of unsound mind if he is not capable to understand the nature of contract and is unable to form a reasonable judgment. As per S. 11 of this Act, if a person of unsound mind enters into a contract, it will be declared as void.

Now, a person of unsound mind can be a lunatic or an idiot.

  • IDIOT– A person who is of unsound mind by birth or permanently of unsound mind is said to be an idiot. Therefore, the contracts entered upon by him are void-ab-initio.
  • LUNATIC– A person who is not permanently of unsound mind but during specific periods he is of sound mind is regarded as a lunatic. They are allowed to enter into a contract only during a period of their sanity.

Insanity/lunatic – Mc’naghten rule

In 1843, the law of insanity was formulated in the case of R v. Mc’Naghten

  • Principles in Mc’naghten case:-
  • Every person is presumed to have sanity unless the opposite is established.
  • In order to take the plea of insanity, it has to be proved that at the time of committing the crime the person was so insane that he didn’t understand the nature of the act or had no idea that the act he was doing was of criminal nature.
  • The test of wrongfulness of the act is in the ability to distinguish between right and wrong not in general but related to that particular act committed.

Law of Contract provisions for drunken person 

A person having a majority age is considered to be capable of entering into a contract usually. But to a contrary there are certain exceptions as to this that under certain circumstances a drunk person is incapable of entering into a valid contract. Generally the Contractual capacity of a drunken person is regarded same as that of one who is a lunatic. 

Therefore the burden of proving drunkenness rests on the person asserting it.

  • Contracts entered into by the drunken person are not binding on him in the following cases :-
  • When he was too drunk to understand the nature of contract ;
  • The opposite party took advantage of it knowing of his condition. 

By this it can be assumed that a drunk may ratify the contract entered into by him at the time of his incapability to understand the nature of contract. Also in certain circumstances, an infant, a lunatic and a drunk is bound to pay a price as compensation for goods sold and delivered to him according to Sale of Goods Act (1893). 

Thus, a drunken and lunatic person has to pay not only when goods are sold to them but even when delivered and also for necessary goods. According to Sale of Goods Act, goods delivered to drunken must be suitable to the condition of his life.

Indian penal code provisions as regards Intoxication 

The provisions for intoxication is provided under Sections 85 and 86 of IPC. The major difference between these is that S.85 deals with a person who is involuntarily intoxicated whereas S.86 is a person who is voluntarily intoxicated. Thus according to S. 85 a person is not liable criminally but in case of S. 86 a person cannot take a defense of intoxication.

  • Essential elements under S. 85 for a person to be safeguarded from action against him:-
  • The person was incapable of knowing the nature of act committed.
  • He was not in a sense to know the acts were wrong or against law.
  • The act committed by him was as a result of such intoxication.

Where the accused was persuaded by his father to drink alcohol, the plea of defense cannot be taken here since he had the knowledge of drink offered to him.

  • Legal status of Dead Person:

Dead person – Someone who is no longer alive is called dead.

Dead persons have no legal personality and hence, cannot sue and be sued. Dead men are no longer persons in the eye of law. Legal personality of a person dies with his person. They do not remain the owners of their property until their successors enter upon their inheritance. When a person dies leaving Will, his property is distributed according to the Will. Law recognises and takes account after the death of the person of his desires and interest when alive. There are three things in respect of which the anxieties of living men extend even after their death. Those are his body, his reputation and his property.

  1. His Body:

A living person is interested in the treatment to be given to his own body. A person is interested in a decent funeral and good burial. Criminal law secures a decent burial for all dead persons and the violation of a grave is a criminal offence. It is because to the respect the feelings of the relatives of a dead person, not in protection of dead person’s right.

  • His reputation:

Everyone is interested in maintaining reputation even after death. The reputation of a dead person receives some degree of protection from the criminal law. Defamation suit can be filed for loss of reputation of a dead person. If the publication is an attack on the internet of living persons, as a matter of fact, this right is in reality not that of the dead person but of his living descendants.

  • His Property/ Estate:

A man is dead but his hand may continue to regulate and determine the enjoyment of the property he owned while he was alive. He can dispose of his property by WILL. When a person dies intestate ( dies living will) the property is distributed according to the WILL.

William Vs. William 33 Bombay 122.

In this case, court held that a person during his lifetime cannot make a Will, disposing of his body. E.g. giving his brain, bones etc to the museum or giving any part of his dead body to the 

medical college. But the trend changed today and it is legal to donate one’s eyes of part of his body after his death.

Legal Status of Lower Animals

Law does not recognise beasts or lower animals as persons because they are merely things and have no natural or legal rights. Salmond regards them mere objects of legal rights and duties but never subjects of them. Animals are not capable of having rights and duties and hence they are not legal persons.

  1. Ancient Law – However, in ancient times animals were regarded as having legal rights and being bound by legal duties. Under the ancient Jewish Code ‘if an ox gore (wound with a horn) a man or woman resulting in his or her death, then the ox was to be stoned and its flesh was not to be eaten. 
  2. There are many examples in ancient Hebrew Codes where cock, bulls, dogs and even the trunk of trees which had fallen on human beings and killed him were tried for homicide.’
  3. There are similar instances in India as well. In number of cases found that, animals were sued in courts in ancient India. There is popular story about the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in which the bullock was presented before the Emperor. However these instances are merely of historical interest and have no relevance in modern law.

The modern law does not consider the right and duties of the animal rather they consider it as the rights and duties of the owners of the animal. This means that the owner of the animal will be liable for the wrongful act of his animal. The liability arises on the master is not because of vicarious liability ( the master be held liable) but because of the negligence of the master to control his animal in causing harm. This can be explained by an example, a man was the owner of a ferocious dog. He was well known about the ferocity of his dog and then also has not taken any precautions. One day the dog was unleashed and bit a man. In this case, the master or the owner of the dog is liable as he is negligent.

There are two principals where we can say that a animal can possess some legal rights:

  • Cruelty to animals is criminal offences.
  • A trust for the benefit of a particular class of animals, as opposed to one for individual animals, is valid and enforceable as public and charitable trust.

Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960 made it punishable that whoever causes cruelty to anyone’s animal either by beating, causing pain, kicking, torturing or forcing them to overload. Any of the acts done will be punishable under this act. The rights and freedom are guaranteed to the animals by the Constitution of India under Article 51 A (g)(h) which is the Magna Carta of animal rights.

In the case of Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja, it is stated that Article 21 of the Constitution of India will safeguard the rights of all humans and protect their lives. The definition of the word ‘life’ is expanded and explained that it includes all forms of life including animal lives and all the animal has honour or dignity. Every species has an inherent right to live and is required to be protected by the law.

The cases where the animals are poached either for their skin, bones, teeths and flesh or for the purpose of hunting is strictly banned. The implementation of such laws is still in question and there is still the need to increase the strictness for the laws regarding the protection of rights of animals.

In the case of Pettingall v. Pettingall, it is laid that the trust for the benefit of the Animal’s maintenance can be made. The charitable trust is created for the promotion of public welfare and the advancement of religion. The testator has left a deed for the horses and dogs for as long as they live. The trust deed was held valid and enforceable by law.

  • Legal Status of Idol 

It has been judicially held that idol is a juristic person and as such it can hold property. Its position is, however, like that of a minor and the priest, i.e., Pujari acts as a guardian to look after its interests. 

The Privy Council, in Pramatha Nath Mulkk Vs.Pradyumna Kumar Mulick, 1925 held that an idol is juristic person and its will as to its location must be duly respected. The court directed that idol be represented by a disinterested next friend to be appointed by the Court to put up its point of view

Similar view was reiterated by the Supreme Court of India in Yogendra Nath Naskar Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, 1969 wherein it was held that an idol is a juristic person capable of holding property and of being taxed through its sheba its who are entrusted with the posses-sion and management of its property. An idol can he treated as a unit of assessment for assessing its liability under the Income Tax Act.

  • Legal Status of Mosque:-

Regarding the legal personality of the Mosque, the courts have expressed conflicting views.

In the case of Maula Bux Vs. Hafizudding AIR  1925 Lah 372 the High Court of Lahore held that a Mosque was a juristic person capable of being sued.

But in the case of Masjid Shahid Ganj Vs. Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, (1940) 67 IA 251, the Privy Council held a contrary view and held that Mosques are not artificial persons in the eyes of law and, therefore, no suit can be brought by or against them. The Privy Council, however, left the question open whether for any purpose, a Mosque can be regarded as a juristic person.


Legal personality is an artificial creation of law. Entities under the law are capable of being parties to a legal relationship. A natural person is a human being and legal persons are artificial persons, such as a corporation. Law creates such corporation and gives certain legal rights and duties of a human being.

A legal personality Is what provides a person or organization rights and responsibilities by the law. Usually, we automatically assume that Humans have a legal personality. This is so as such legal systems are built for the use of human beings. These days, the concept of legal personality is frequently a part of discussions about the rights or legal responsibility of the entities such as corporations that cannot be defined by a single person.

Theories Related To Corporate Personality 

  1. Fiction Theory

This theory says that the personality of a corporation is different from that of its members. Thus any change in the membership will not affect the existence of the corporation.

  • Concession Theory

It is concerned with the Sovereignty of a State. It pre-supposes that the corporation as a legal person has great importance because it is recognized by the State or the law. According to it, a juristic person is merely a concession or creation of the state.

  1. Group Personality Theory

This theory believes that every collective group has a real mind, a real will and a real power of action. So, a corporation has a real existence, irrespective of the fact whether it is recognized by the State or not.

  • The Bracket Theory or the Symbolist Theory

It states that the conception of corporate personality is important and is an economic device by which we can simplify the task of coordinating legal relations. Thus, it emphasizes that the law should look behind the entity to discover the real state of affairs.

  • Purpose Theory or the theory of Zweck Vermogen

It declares that only human beings can be a person and have rights. It also states that a juristic person is no person at all but merely a subject-less property meant for a particular purpose. There is ownership but no owner. Thus a juristic person is not constructed by a group of people but based on some object and purpose. Only living things can be the subject-matter of rights and duties.

  • Kelsen’s Theory of Legal Personality

According to it, there is no difference between the legal personality of a company and that of an individual. In the legal sense personality is only a technical personification of the norms with the assigned rights and duties.

Kinds of Corporation 

There are two types of corporations:

SOURCE: Finology Legal


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