Do the dead have rights?

With the pandemic ruthlessly killing millions of people, the pressing issue of dealing with the dead arises, especially in a large country like ours. But, before I get into the details of the topic, we must first comprehend the concept of a person. What is the definition of a person? Also, when people die, are they to be viewed as mere things?

The term “person” comes from the Latin word “persona,” which refers to a person’s mask. This word today has a variety of meanings. The essence of a legal identity, according to renowned Jurist Litelmana, is its “will,” with man’s bodiliness being a wholly separate and unconnected feature.

The General Clauses Act, Section 3(42), specifies who a person is. The definition encompasses a company or an association of individuals, whether or not it is incorporated. Henceforth, a person as, per this definition, would have rights and duties. And would be treated as a legal entity under the law.The Indian Penal Code defines ‘person’ as an association of a group of individuals irrespective of the fact that they are incorporated or not. 

Now the crucial question is whether the enforceability of a will implies that the deceased are legal persons. A testament/will made by a person is enforceable after his death, but it must be in favour of a living person. Also, if the testament/will does not include a provision for transferring property to surviving relatives/any individual, it cannot be legally implemented. 

When humans die, they no longer have any duties to discharge and cannot be punished. As a result, the deceased does not have the status of a legal person. But that doesn’t imply that the dead don’t have rights.

In India, statutes such as the Indian Penal Code grant some rights to bodies of people after they die. The following are a list of them:

  1. Right to be cremated with human dignity:According to Section 297 of IPC, the disrespect of dead bodies is absolutely prohibited. If any person commits trespass in any area set up for funeral rites or treats a corpse with indignation or creates a disruption to persons assembled to carry out funeral rituals of the dead, he or she must be punished for a term of one year or fined or both.In Ashray Adhikari Abhiyan vs Union of India, the court held that it is the obligation of the state to have a decent burial.
  1. Right to reputation:Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with defamation, also states that libel or slander against a deceased person contributes to the offence of defamation.Because the deceased cannot defend themselves and it is unjust to speak badly of them, their legal heirs or representatives must defend their reputation.
  2. Protection of a dead person’s property:Section 404 of the IPC renders dishonest misappropriation of the deceased’s property an offence.It penalises criminal misappropriation with the property possessed by the deceased person at the time of his death as a non cognisable and bailable offence.

Also it is pretty concerning that abhorrent sexual crimes are committed against a corpse.Despite all of the above-mentioned offences, the IPC lacks provision for necrophilia, which is regarded as the most horrific act that can be committed against a dead body.There is a pressing need to investigate this issue further and enact suitable legislation. Also, any lacuna that exists in pre-existing legislation should be corrected.



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.

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