In the concept of person and legal personality under juriprudence, object of law is to regulate the relationship between individuals and society. The validity of the acts and omissions of persons is determined on the basis of their reasonableness. All those acts which hamper the rights and interest of others are called unlawful and all those which don’t adversely effect the interest of others are held to be lawful.
Origin of concept of legal personality
The word person is derived from the Latin word persona which meant a mask worn by actors playing different roles in a drama. But in later staged this word used in the sense of a living being capable of having rights and duties.
A person is generally defined as being a subject or bearer of a right and duties.
Person also include groups of persons or of property which also capable of being subjects of rights and duties because state conferred artificial personality to them.
Person have two types generally:
- Natural -Human being
- Artificial- other than human beings who is also bearer of rights and duties like corporation .
Legal Personality is a fiction of law
The artificial personality has been created for the purpose of bestowing the character and properties of individuality on a collective body of persons. In simpler words fiction of law is something false which law assumes or accepts as true .
For example : A company or a corporation or an idol though not a natural person is treated as legal person by fiction of law with a view to determined their rights , claims , duties , obligations and liabilities etc.
Definition of Legal Person
Any being to whom law regards as capable of rights and duties . Any being that is so capable , is a person whether human being or not and nothing that is not so capable is a person even though he be a man.
Person as entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.
In nutshell , A juristic person is not a human being , it may be any other subject matter either a thing or a mass of property or group of human beings to which law attributes personality.
There are the persons who do not enjoy the status of legal personality but the society has some duty towards them. Which are as follows :
Legal Status of Unborn Person
The law attributes legal personality to unborn children . A child in mother’s womb is by fiction treated as already born and regarded as person for many purposes. Such as
- A gift may be made to a child who is still in the mother’s womb.
- Ownership may be vested in a child in mother’s womb (en ventre sa mere ) and such a child constitutes life for the purpose of the rule against perpetuity.
- The Hindu Law of Partition requires a share to be allotted to a child in mother’s womb along with the other living heirs. However, if the child does not take birth alive, his share may be equally partitioned between the surviving heirs.
- Under Indian Penal Code , injury to a child in womb is a punishable offence .
- Although rights conferred to unborn child is contingent in nature means they will be fulfilled only after the condition of being born live will be fulfilled.
- The transfer of property Act 1882 also extends protection to the proprietary rights in favour of unborn persons.
- Under other law like Canadian law legal status to unborn children is recognised.
- In English law status to unborn person is confirmed in the provision : That a pregnant woman sentenced to death shall be respited (relief) as of right until she delivers the child .
- Significantly Paton does not recognize a child in the mothers womb as a legal person because he is without rights. Although this view is not tenable .
Legal Status of dead person :
According to Salmond , the personality of human being commence with the birth and ceases with his death . Therefore dead man are no longer persons in the eyes of the law because nor they have any rights nor they have any interest or duties. Dead man corpse is not a property in the eyes of law.
However Salmond points out three things in respect of which anxieties of living men extend beyond the period of their death , of which law will take notice . They are
- Dead-Man Body
- His reputation
- His estate
- Although dead man corpse is property of no one but the law seeks to ensure its decent burial or cremation .Same provision has been enumerated in the Constitution of India.
- Any imputation against a deceased person if it harms the reputation of that person if living and is intended to hurt the feelings of his family member and his near relative may attract the offence of defamation under 499 of IPC.
Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan vs Union of India 2002 supreme court has held that even a
homeless person when found dead on the road has a right of a decent burial or cremation a per his religious faith.Testamentary dispositions of the dead are carried out by law.
Legal Status of Animals
Law does not recognize beats or lower animals as persons because they are merely things and have no natural or legal right . Salomond regards them as mere objeVts of legal rights and duties , but never the subjects of them .
- Beats being incapable of legal rights and duties their interests are not recognised by law .
- The modern law however , holds the master liable for the wrong caused by their pets , beats and animals. The liability so imposed is not on the basis of principle of vaicaruius liability but on the basis of implied negligence in not keeping the aNimal well within control.
- The law seeks to extend protection to animals in two ways
- Cruelty to animals is an offence
- Trust for the benefit of a particular class of animals.
Salmond suggests that duties towards animals are in fact duties towards the society itself .The society does have an interest in the protection and wellbeing of the animals.
- A reference may also be made about the police did use for detection of crime and criminals. Despite the fact that they play a crucial in apprehending offenders. It must be stated that a conviction cannot be solely on the evidence of an issue police dog unless it corroborated by other supposed evidence. The reason being that the police dogs cannot be subjected to cross examination.
Legal status of Idol or Mosque
It has been judicially recognised that idol is a juristic person and as such it can hold property . It’s position is , however like that of minor because the priest that us Pujari acts as a guardian to look after the interest if the idol i.e. deity.
In the case of Yogendra Nath Naskar vs Commissioner of Income Tax , it was held by the supreme court that idol is juristic person capable of holding property and of being taxes through its shebatis who is entrusted with the possession and management of its property. An idol cam be treated as a unit of assessment for assessing it’s liability under Income Tax Act.
The supreme court in Devkinandan vs Muralidharan rules that the property of Hindu temple or idol vests in idol itself while it’s possession and management vests in Shebait as manager of the estate.
However the Supreme Court in Krishna Singh vs Mathura distinguished the legal position of a Math from that of temple and held that Math is a religious institution sue generis unlike a temple where presiding element is deity , whereas the presiding element of Math is it’s Mahant or Mathadhipati. The property belonging to Math is ,in fact attached to office of Mahant and passes by inheritance to one who fills the office.
As regards the legal personality of a mosque , the court have expressed conflicting views. High Court of Lahore in Maula Bux vs Hafijuddin held that mosque was a juristic person capable of being sued. But the privy Council held a contrary view in Masjid Shahid Ganj case and observed that mosques are not artificial persons in eyes of laws and therefore, no suit can be brought by or against them.
The supreme Court in Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committe vs Somnath Das has rules that the Guru Granth Sahib ,the holy Granth of Sikhs is a legal person.
Kinds of Legal Person
Two kinds of persons
- Natural person : A natural person is a living human being . But all living human beings need not necessarily be recognized as persons in law. For example infants and lunatics
- Legal person : Legal person is any subject matter to which the law attributes legal personality .Legal persons are artificial or imaginary beings to which law attribute personality by way of fiction.