Legal Status of Unborn Person, Dead Man and Animals


The main object of law is to regulate the relationship between individuals in the society. The validity of act and omissions of a person is determined on the basis of the reasonableness. All those acts which do not adversely affect the interest of others are held to be lawful where is acts which interfere with right of others or called unlawful. The law imposes certain duties on individuals for the protection of interests of mankind. Therefore, the rights and duties form the basis of judging the legality of man’s act. The concept of legal personality constitutes an important subject matter because there cannot be rights and duties without a person.

Concept of Legal Personality

 The word person is derived from Latin word persona which meant a mask worn by actors playing different roles in a drama. Until the sixth century, the word was used to denote the part played by a man in life. Thereafter, it began to be used in sense of a living being capable or having rights and duties. Generally, there are two types of person which the law recognises namely natural and artificial. The former refers to human beings while latter to other than human beings which the law recognised as having duties and rights. One of the most recognised artificial person is corporation.

Definition of ‘Legal Person’

Salmond defines a ‘person’ as “any being to whom the law regards as capable of rights or duties. Any being that is so capable, is a person whether it be a human being or not and nothing that is not so capable is a person even though he be a man.”

Gray defines a ‘person’ as an “entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.” Any being that is capable of holding a right or duty, whether it being a human being or not is a person in law.

Legal Status of Unborn Person

The law attributes legal personality to unborn children. A child in mother’s womb is by fiction created as already born and regarded as a person for many purposes. A gift maybe made your child who is still in the mother’s womb. Ownership may be vested in a child in mother’s womb and such a child constitutes life for the purpose of the rule against perpetuity.  The rights conferred on unborn children are, however, contingent depending upon the making birth alive, when they are transformed into vested rights.

Legal Status of Dead Man

Salmond of observes that generally speaking, the personality of a human being maybe said to commence with his birth and ceases with his death. Therefore, dead men are no longer persons in the eyes of law. They cease to have rights since they cease to have any interests nor do they have any duties. A dead man’s corpse is not a property in the eyes of law. It cannot be disposed by an instrument.  The dead man’s corpse is the property of no one but the law seeks to ensure its decent burial or cremation.

The reputation of dead man is to some extent protected by the law.  The defamation against the dead person is no doubt punishable under the criminal law but only when it affects the interests of his relatives and near ones who are living. The right so protected is in reality not that of the dead man but that of his living descendants.

It is true that the dead persons are not recognised as legal persons but the testamentary depositions of dead are carried out by the law.

Legal Status of Animals

Law does not recognise beasts and lower animals as persons because they are merely things and have no natural or legal rights. Salmond regards them as mere objects of the legal rights and duties but never the subject of them. The ancient law had contained provisions regarding punishment to animals if they are found guilty of homicide. In the modern law, however, holds the master liable for the wrongs caused by their pets, beasts and animals. The liability so imposed on the master does not arise out of the principle of Vicarious Liability because of his implied negligence in not keeping the animal well within control.

 Salomon rightly suggests, the duties to words animals are in fact duties to words the society itself. The society does have an interest in protection and well-being of the animals.


The law in creating legal persons personifies some real thing or object and then confers upon it a fictitious personality. The former can be called the corpus and the latter the animus of the legal personality.

Though legal personality, requires personification, (the use of) a personification in common speech does not mean that the legal personality has been conferred upon it. Legal personality is attained when law recognizes a single entity over and above the group of the individuals or the thing which though represents the group of the individuals or the thing, is distinct from them. 

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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You may also like to read:

Being Aishwarya – Aishwarya Sandeep

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Imperfect Mother – Aishwarya Sandeep

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