The term “person” originated from the Latin term “persona” which mean a “mask”. It represents a mask worn by actor while playing a character in a drama. Initially this term was used to show the part played by a man in his life. However, in modern time this word has been used in the wider sense. It does not only represents the identity of a man but also represents many jural relations. It does not includes only human being but also associations, idols, corporations, etc.
Many Jurists have given the definition of person.
- According to Salmond, “A person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and bound by legal duties.”
- According to Gray, “ A person is an entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.”
TYPES OF PERSONS
Law generally recognizes two types of person, namely the natural and legal or artificial persons.
Natural persons: A living human being who has its own legal personality is referred to as a natural person. A natural person, according to Holland, is a human being who is recognised by the law as having rights and duties. However, a human being must be born and living. According to Austin the word ‘person’ refers to a physical or natural person including every being who can be considered as human. The majority of legal rights and privileges, as well as duties and liabilities, are conferred on natural persons. A natural person has the legal right to sue and be sued. For the benefit of such natural persons, human rights and fundamental rights are established.
Moreover, in the eyes of the law, all human beings are not considered natural persons. For instance, idiot, lunatic, minor is not a natural person as they lack the ability to exercise rights and duties.
Legal or Artificial persons : Legal persons are juristic, fictitious or artificial persons which have a real existence but their personality is fictitious. For instance, corporations, idols, trade unions etc. are considered as legal persons. Law confers rights and duties on legal persons and confers them with a capacity to sue and be sued.
Legal personality starts with birth and extinguish with death of a person. When a person is born he becomes a person in the eye of law. However, certain rights which are created at birth are protected even after a death of a person. Those rights are with respect to the deceased’s body, his reputation and his estate.
Generally, legal personality starts with birth and ends with death. It means that only a living individual have rights and duties. However, law creates an exception by attributing legal personality to a child who is in it’s mother’s womb. It means a child who has not yet been born but has been conceived in the mother’s womb is regarded as a legal person. An unborn child is attributed legal personality by law provided that such child shall been born subsequently. A child in its mother’s womb is capable of acquiring certain rights and inheriting property.
In Hindu law an unborn child in womb is considered a living person. As per Mitakshara Law, if a partition takes place among the coparceners in a Hindu Undivided Family, a share is to be reserved for unborn child. If the share is not reserved the child after his birth can challenge the partition and can claim his share. Also, the transfer of property can be made in favor of the unborn child. A gift can be made in favor of a child who exists in the womb of her mother.
Moreover, Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act provides that an unborn child will have the same right to inherit the property as if he had been born at the time of the death of the intestate.
Section 315 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 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. Moreover, explanation III of section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides that causing death of a child in its mother’s womb is culpable homicide though it is not born completely but if any part of the child has come forth, it is punishable according to the law.
Section 416 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 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.
Section 13 of Transfer of Property Act, 1882 states that a property can be transferred for the benefit of an unborn person through the means of trust.
Section 114 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, 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.
Legal personality ends with the death of a person because a dead person is not capable of having the rights and duties. The following rights of a deceased person, however, are protected by the law:
- His Body: The law protects the right of the deceased body. A dead person has the right to a dignified burial in accordance with his or her religious beliefs. There are regulations for the burial of unclaimed bodies. Furthermore, Section 297 of the Indian penal code punishes those persons who cause disturbance in the performance of funeral ceremonies.
- His Reputation: It is illegal to defame a deceased person if the defamation would harm that person’s reputation if living, and is intended to hurt the feelings of his family or close relatives. Explanation I to section 499 of Indian Penal Code provides if there is any imputation concerning any deceased person it may amount to defamation of that deceased person. There is a maxim “De mortius nil nisi bonum” which means neither dead have rights nor can suffer wrong.
- His estate: The law respects the desires of the dead person regarding the devolution of property. Any movable or immovable property of such dead person will be transferred according to the will if any made by him.
Animals are not recognised as persons in law and therefore, animals cannot have legal rights and duties. In ancient times, animals were treated as persons and they were tried in courts and punished for any wrongful acts done by them.
However, if any wrong is caused to or pet it is considered wrong caused to the owner of that pet and any wrong done to any animal is considered wrong done to the whole society . Also, if a wrong is caused by a pet, his owner will be liable for the same and he will be liable for damages.
IDOLS AND MOSQUES
Idols and mosques are recognized as juristic person by the judiciary and thus, have legal personality. It can hold the property in its own name. It can sue and can be sued.
All companies or corporations are persons in the eyes of law and it is the law that attributes legal personality to companies or corporations. This legal personality enables a corporation or company to hold property in its own name. It can sue and be sued in its own name.
The concept of legal personality is important both in the legal system and in other networks of rules that govern human behaviour. The concept of legal personality is crucial in jurisprudence since there can be no rights or obligations without a person.
- Provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Provisions of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
- Provisions of Transfer of Property Act, 1882
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