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The main purpose of the law is to maintain the relationship between individuals. Here, individuals must not be considered human beings but persons in the eyes of the law.

According to Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code, a person includes any company, association, or body of persons, whether combined or not. [1]Legal personality is an important subject of law because rights and duties cannot be sued without a person’s existence. Legal personality refers to a right- and duty-bearing unit in legal terms. Personality should be distinguished from humanity. Thus, personality is broader than humanity. Sometimes, humanity and personality overlap, and sometimes they do not. The personality of a human being means the control of certain features, particularly those belonging to human beings, i.e., the power of speech, the power of thought, etc.


The word “person” comes from the Latin word “persona,” which means “mask.”

In ancient times, until the 6th century, this word described the role a man played in his life. Later, it should be used in the logic of a living thing, which could be communicated with rights and duties. Legal personality, the creation of law, can be discussed with entities other than human beings. Therefore, the law permits two types of people: natural and artificial, the former relating to humans and the latter one is relating to others. One of the most recognized artificial people is an establishment or company.


Legal persons are created artificially, and they are the persons present according to the law.

It includes any beings and things that are treated as persons by law. Thus, the "legal person" comprises those things which are treated in the same way as human beings for legal purposes. A legal person is also called fictitious, juristic, moral, etc. Many jurists have defined "person" in many ways[2]. But, according to Salmond, a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties.

Savigny: He defines the person as the subject or the bearer of rights.

· Gray: According to Gray, a person is an entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.

· AUSTIN: According to Austin, the term “person” includes a physical or natural person, including every being which can be deemed human.


1) Natural Person

2) Judicial Person

Natural Person

According to Holland, a natural person is “such a human being regarded by the law as capable of rights and duties[3].”

Generally, the natural person denotes the person who has a natural birth from a human being, who has a physical shape. The natural person is a human being recognized by law as capable of rights and duties. They have characteristics of power of thought, speech, and choice. Men are the only natural people present in society. Some exceptions to natural persons are: minor, lunatic, and slave.

Juridical Person

Artificial or juridical persons are legal creations to which the law attributes a fictitious personality. They are groups or entities of human beings that have acquired a corporate character and are treated by law for certain purposes. Artificial persons are created by the legislature using a character or general statute. For example, corporations, trade unions, societies, and associations[4].


According to Hindu law, a child in the mother's womb, when born alive, inherits the property[5].

There is protection for the child in the mother’s womb and the youngster. There are numerous laws in India specifically designed to protect women and children. In our Indian constitution, the unborn child is also given legal status. Every legal category, including property law, medical law, tort law, criminal law, and others, grants legal status to the unborn child. If a partition takes place between them, a share is to be reserved for him, and if it is not reserved, then the partition may be reopened by him. According to Section 13 of the Property Transfer Act, the property can be transferred in favor of the unborn child. Section 416 of the CRPC provides that if a pregnant woman is sentenced to death, her execution will be postponed until she gives birth. Abortion and infanticide lead to criminal offenses.


According to the law, a dead man is not a legal person. As soon as a man dies, he ends up having a legal personality. A dead person doesn’t have any rights. When they die, their legal rights and duties end. There is no legal status for a dead person.

The legal maxim “Action personalis moritur cum persona” means action dies with the death of a man. Section 297 of the IPC also provides punishment for committing disgrace to any human corpse. The criminal law provides that any accusation against a deceased person who may harm the reputation of that person or hurt the feelings of his family or other relatives shall be an offense of defamation under Sec 499 of the Indian Penal Code[6]. The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to privacy is an element of human dignity and the privacy of the deceased person. In the case of Ashray Adhikar Abhiyanv Union of India, the Supreme Court held that even a homeless person found dead on the road has a right to a decent funeral as per his religious faith[7]. The dead person’s property was carried out by law, according to the will made by him regarding the disposal of his property.


The law does not recognize animals as humans because animals are merely natural or have no legal rights[8]. Salmond regards them as objects of legal rights and duties but never subjects them.

In ancient India, several cases were founded where animals were sued in court. There is a popular story about the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in which a bullock is presented before the king. However, these instances are of merely historical interest and have no relevance in modern law. In modern times, the master is liable for the wrongs caused by his pet. Masters are not liable due to vicarious liability but due to their negligence. The Animal Cruelty Prevention Act was enacted under Indian law to protect animals from cruelty. The judiciary and legislature support and promote animal rights in the same ways that they do for human rights.


The idol was an image or symbol of God used for worship. Idol was considered to be a juristic person.

It is sued and may be sued. Funds dedicated to religious purposes also have the character of a corporation. It has certain rights and has been given certain protections by law. The position of the idol was the same as that of the minor, and Pujari, or the priest, acted on its behalf as a guardian. Neither God nor any supernatural being can be a person in Law[9]. In the case of Pramathanath Mullick vs. Pradmna Kumar Mullick, the Privy Council ruled that the idol is a juristic person and can put their point of view in court.


The mosque is not a juristic person in the eyes of law. Because it’s a place where people gather to worship, it's not a thing to be worshipped.

Neither church has a legal personality. In the case of Maula Buksh v. Hafiz-ud-din, it was held that a mosque was a juristic person and could sue and be sued, but in the case of Masjid Shahid Ganj, the Privy Council held that suits cannot be brought by or against mosques, as they are not ‘artificial' or juridical persons in the eyes of the law[10]. Mosques have got an opposite opinion hence; the issue is still open for interpretation.



It has been concluded that "personality" in law is a wider term. It differs from humanity, which simply includes human beings, but personality includes rights and duties as well.

A non-human being can be a legal person in the law, for example, an idol placed in a temple. Sometimes, a human being may not be considered a legal person. For example, in ancient times, slaves were considered mere possessions of their owners and not persons. In India, an unborn child is also a legal person as per the fiction of law. There is a vast difference between a natural person and a legal person as a human has existence given by nature whereas the legal person is a fiction created by the act of law.

-- [1] [ Ratanlal & Dhirajlal], Indian penal Code 29 [LexisNexis 2020] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [ Ratanlal & Dhirajlal], Indian penal Code [LexisNexis 2020] [7] [8] [9] [10]

This article is written by Simran Mishra of Fairfield institute of Management and technology.

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