Who is a Person?

Definition

The term ‘person’ stems from the Latin phrase ‘Persona,’ which refers to persons who are legally recognised as possessing legal rights and being bound by legal obligations. It can refer to a single individual, a group of individuals, a business, or another legal entity recognised by law as the subject of rights and obligations. 

There are two types of persons: (a) natural persons and (b) legal, artificial, or juristic persons. Certain natural individuals do not have the legal status of a legal person, and vice versa.

Historical Background

The terms ‘person’ and ‘personality’ have evolved throughout time. Roman law, Greek law, and Hindu law have all made reference to the notion. The term had a particular meaning in Roman law, and it was equivalent with ‘caput,’ which signifies rank. As a result, a slave possessed an incomplete identity. Later on, it was used to refer to a person or thing capable of sustaining legal rights and obligations. There was no difficulty with individuality in ancient Roman culture since the ‘family’ was the fundamental unit of the society, not the individual. The family comprised of several members, but all authority was focused on the ‘pater familias,’ or family head. If a family head dies and there is a lapse of time between his death and the devolution of property to the accepted heir, the property vests in a person during the lapse. This was dubbed hereditas jacens by the Romans. According to some experts, the hereditas jacens is analogous to legal personhood. Hereditas jacens refers to the inheritance during the period between the ancestor’s death and the heir’s acceptance of the inheritance. Any academics are unable to accept the idea that it has some link to the contemporary theory of legal personality; even if it does, it may be in a very restricted sense. In Roman law, other institutions or groups endowed with specific rights and obligations were permitted to exercise such rights and obligations through a representative.

Under Greek law, an animal or a tree might be prosecuted for causing harm or death to a human being. On the basis of this practise, it is possible to assert that these objects were subject to obligations even though they lacked rights. This is a component of personality attribution.

Law of status

The law of status is the body of legislation governing man’s natural, domestic, and extra-domestic position in civilised society. Extra domestic law is concerned with topics and relationships other than those pertaining to the family. Thus, this branch of the law of status is concerned with the status of individuals such as lunatics, foreigners, deceased individuals, and lesser animals.

These are individuals who lack legal personhood yet owe the society certain obligations.

Unborn Person’s Legal Status

By legal fiction, a kid in the mother’s womb is considered to be already born. If he is born alive, he will be legally recognised. Though the law typically applies to live human beings, it creates an exemption for a newborn in ventre sa sole.

Indian law pertaining to an unborn child

Section 315 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – This section of the IPC says that inflicting prenatal damage on a child capable of birth and preventing it from being born constitutes child destruction.

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Provision 416 – This section of the CrPC provides that if a woman sentenced to death is discovered to be pregnant, the High Court must give a stay of execution or, if the court finds it appropriate, the execution may be commuted to life imprisonment.

Provision 13 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 – This section of the aforementioned Act provides that property may be transferred in trust for the benefit of an unborn person.

Clause 114 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 – This section provides for the formation of a prior interest in corporeal or incorporeal property prior to the unborn child becoming the owner. However, no property is presumed to vest in the unborn child until he or she is born alive in accordance with the Act.

Hindu law considers an unborn child to be a living person for some purposes. Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, protects the rights of an unborn child in its mother’s womb. According to Mitakshara Law, an unborn child has an interest in coparcenary property in a Hindu Undivided Family. A donation made in the name of a non-existent individual is invalid under Mohammedan Law.

Deities

For decades, temple idols have been accorded the legal status of humans. And they have fought legal fights on behalf of their “human” rights through the trustees or governing board of the temple in which they are revered. Most notably, at a 2010 hearing of the protracted Ayodhya dispute(4), Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman became a plaintiff, pleading his case for his janmabhoomi (birthplace) before the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench through his agent Deoki Nandan Agarwal.

Lower Animals’ Legal Status

The law does not recognise beasts or lesser creatures as individuals, as they are essentially objects with no inherent or legal rights. Salmond considers them as mere objects of legal rights and obligations, never as their subjects. Animals lack the capacity for rights and obligations, and so do not qualify as legal people.

This follows the 2014 Animal Welfare Board of India vs. Nagaraja(5) decision, which established that not only people, but also animals, have the right to dignity and fair treatment under India’s constitution’s article 21.

Dead Man’s Legal Status

A dead man is not a legal entity. When a person dies, he loses his legal individuality. It is stated that dead men do not retain their rights and obligations; rather, their rights and obligations are considered to have been laid down with their death. Personal activity perishes with the death of a person. With death, a person’s individuality ceases to exist. A deceased person loses all legal rights and obligations. Nonetheless, law recognises and takes into consideration the desires or intentions of a deceased person to a certain extent. Law guarantees a dignified burial, honours the dead’s intentions for the disposition of his property, safeguards his reputation, and in some situations, continues pending litigation brought by or against a deceased person.

– In terms of a deceased man’s body, criminal law ensures that all deceased males receive a dignified burial. Section 297 of the Indian Penal Code also punishes anybody who commits a crime that results in the indignity of any human corpse. According to the criminal law, any imputation made about a deceased person that hurts the reputation of that person if he is still alive and is meant to injure the feelings of his family or other close relations is a defamation offence under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.

In Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v Union of India(6), the Supreme Court decided that even a homeless person discovered dead on the road has a right to a dignified burial or cremation according to his religious faith.

In Saraswati v. Raja Gopal(7), it was found that worshipping at a person’s Samadhi, unless in a society where constructing graves and worshipping there is a prevalent practise, is not a religious or philanthropic purpose under Hindu Law and hence would not form a legitimate trust or endowment.

Conclusion

Incorporation is critical because it bestows legal identity on non-living entities such as corporations, institutions, and so on, allowing for the determination of their rights and obligations. These nonliving people are endowed with legal personality and hence have the ability to own, use, and dispose of property in their own names. Unincorporated institutions are not entitled to this benefit since their existence is identical to that of their members.

There are several instances in early English law where an animal, a tree, or an inanimate object was tried in a court of law. Duty was imposed on plants and animals, but not rights. Following 1846, this concept was changed to establish that animals and trees are capable of holding rights and obligations; hence, there is no question of personality.

References

  1. The Constitution of India
  2. Sections of IPC
  3. Sections of CrPC
  4. CA 10866-10867/2010
  5. (2014) 7 SCC 547
  6. (2002) 2 SCC 27
  7. A.T.R. 1953 S.C. 491

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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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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