Concept of Legal Personality

INTRODUCTION

ORIGIN AND CONCEPT OF LEGAL PERSONALITY (PERSON)-

The word ‘person’ is derived from the Latin word ‘persona’ which meant a mask that was worn by the actors playing different roles during a drama. But with evolving times it refers to a living being having rights and duties. In modern times a ‘person’ is generally said to be a being who is subject or bearer of a right and it can include corporations, associations, gods, idols etc.

According to Salmond a ‘person’ is “any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties. Any being that is so capable, is a person whether a human being or not and nothing that is not so capable be a person even though he may be a man”. Also, according Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code a “person includes any company or association or body of persons whether incorporated or not.”

Hence, all in all it doesn’t matter living or non-living a ‘person’ is said to be any being, who is a bearer of rights.

The law recognizes two types of persons and they are as follows:

 

NATURAL PERSON LEGAL OR ARTIFICIAL PERSON
>>A natural person is a living human being. >> Legal person is said to be anybody or anything permitted to assert legal claims or subjected to legal duties.
>> A person can be regarded as a natural person on two conditions:

*He has to be a living human being.

*He must be recognized by the State and should not be in total control of someone else or must have renounced the world.

>>On the other hand, legal person are artificial or imaginary beings to which law attributes personality by way of fiction where it does not exist in fact.
>>A natural person does not count corporations, estate, dead man, idiots, or idols etc. as a part of it. >>A legal person includes corporations, institutions, idols, dead man, idiots, unborn person etc.
>>A natural person has a limited time span. >>On the other hand, a legal person has no specific time span it can live for ten years or may be for hundred years.

ANALYSIS OF LEGAL STATUS OF DIFFERENT PERSONS-

LEGAL STATUS OF ANIMALS:

Do animals have a legal status is a question to think about when reading about the legal personality in jurisprudence. In ancient times the animals were punished because of the wrong that they committed but in the modern times it is not so and instead of the animal the master is held liable for any wrong done. This liability is imposed on the master because it is considered to be negligent act for not keeping the animal in control. As a master is held liable for the fault of his pet animal similarly if any wrong is done to the pet then it is considered to be an act against the owner or the society at large. Although the law does not see animals as legal person it still feels a duty towards these animals and has framed a few provisions to protect and maintain them and those provisions are as follows:

  • Cruelty towards animals is an offense
  • A trust made for the benefit of a particular class of animals (not an individual animal) is considered to be valid and enforceable as a public and charitable trust.

Hence, the animals are not considered as legal persons and are just considered to be as a property or object as they do not have any rights and duties. So, they are held to be incapable of sustaining a legal personality. It was truly stated by Salmond that the animals get even this much of recognition because the duties towards animals at the end are the duties towards the society only otherwise the society may or may not show interest towards the wellbeing of the animals.

LEGAL STATUS OF IDOL AND MOSQUE:

An idol is recognized as a juristic person in the eyes of law and can hold property. But, the position of an idol is similar to that of a minor that is as a guardian is assigned to a minor, in a similar way a priest is assigned as a guardian to look after the interests of the idol that is the deity.

CASE LAW: YOGENDRA NATH NASKAR VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX

In this particular case it was held that if the idol is allowed to own a property then there is no reason to why it should not pay taxes and be treated as a unit of assessment for assessing liability under the Income Tax Act.

CASE LAW: DEVKINANDAN VS. MURALIDHAR

In this particular case the Supreme Court ruled that the property of Hindu temple or an idol, vests in the idol itself while its possession and management vests in Shebait as manager of the estate.

In regards to the mosques the court has conflicting views. The courts have held the mosques as a separate judicial entity but the privy council opposed over this fact and in Masjid Shahid Ganj Case they viewed that the mosques are not an artificial entity and no suits can be brought against them that is the mosque cannot be sued by anyone. This interpretation is left open by the Privy council so as to why the mosque should be regarded as a legal person.

LEGAL STATUS OF DEAD PERSON:

According to Salmond the personality of a human being is said to commence with his birth and ceases with his death. Hence in the eyes of law dead man is no person. They cease to have any rights or any duties. Also, a dead man’s corpse is not a ‘property’ in the eyes of law. Still the law recognizes the deceased person with respect and protects the three most important aspects that a person has even after death and they are- his body, reputation and his estate. To further explain all this includes a decent burial of the dead man and protection from defamation of the deceased that causes harm to his reputation as well as hurts the sentiments of the family or dear ones.

CASE LAW: ASHRAY ADHIKAR ABHIYAN VS. UNION OF INDIA

In this case the Supreme Court held that even a homeless person when found dead on the road, has a right of a decent burial as per his religious faith.

Hence a dead person is not recognized as a legal person in the eyes of law but are protected in few aspects by the law, even after death.

LEGAL STATUS OF UNBORN PERSON:

As we have seen that the dead possess no legal personality, it is otherwise with the unborn person that is the law attributes legal personality to unborn person. It is believed that there is nothing in law to prevent a man from owning property before he is born. Under Section 13 of the Indian Transfer of Property Act, 1882, property can be transferred for the benefit of the unborn person by way of trust. Similarly, Section 114 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 provides for the creation of prior interest before the unborn person may be made the owner of property- corporeal or incorporeal, but no property will be deemed to be vested in the unborn person unless and until he is born alive.

Hence to conclude, the law takes into consideration legal personality of a few while it denies the same for others as discussed in the above scenarios.

Author: Gargi Mishra,
Amity Law School, Student of 3rd Year B.A.LLB(H)

See also  Summary of Sale of Goods Act,1930

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