What do you mean by Legal Person and give its kinds with illustrations


Q. 3. (a)What do you mean by Legal Person and give its kinds with illustrations?

(b) Discuss the Legal status of (i) Animal, (ii) Dead Person, (iii) Unborn Person and (iv) Idol.

Ans. (a)Definition of ‘Legal Person — Different jurists have defined legal persons in different ways-

1. According to Gray, “a person is an entity to which rights and duties may be attributed.”

2. According to Salmond, “A person is, any being to whom the law regards as capable of rights or duties.” Any being that is so capable, is a person whether human being or not and nothing that is not so capable is a person even though he be a man.

3. According to Paton, “Legal personality is a medium through which some such units are created in whom rights can be vested.”

Personality is wider and vaguer term than Humanity—According to Salmond “Personality is wider and vaguer term than humanity. In Jaw there may be men who are not persons and persons who are not men.” In ordinary parlance person means living men and women. In con-trast to this a legal person is an artificial creation of law. All human beings are not person in the eye of law. There are human beings who are not persons. For Example — Slaves; conversely, there may be persons who are not human beings, e.g., a Corporation, Institution, Idol etc. Likewise, infants, saints and lunatics are awarded the status of restricted personal-ity. Personality, therefore, has a wider signification than humanity.

Kinds of legal Persons —

According to Salmond a person may be divided into two kinds —

(i) Natural persons and

(ii) Legal persons.

(i) Natural Person—A natural person is a living human being e.g., men, women and impotents. Natural persons are real human beings to whom the law grants personality on the basis of reality.

(ii) Legal Person — Legal persons are artificial or imaginary be-ings to whom law attributes personality by way of fiction where it does not exist in fact e,g., Corporation, Institution, University, Club etc. They are capable of rights and duties like natural persons.

Kinds of Legal Person—A legal person may be divided into three kinds.

1. Corporation,’

2. Institution and

3. Fund or Estate.

1. Corporation — It is a group of co-existing or series of succes-sive persons which by a legal fiction is regarded as a real person. Corpo-ration is either a corporation aggregate or a corporation sole, A municipal corporation is an example of corporation aggregate, while the sovereign is a corporation sole.

2. Institution — In some cases the corpus or object personified is not a group of co-existing or series of successive persons but the institution itself, e.g., a college, library, mosque, church, etc.

3. Fund or Estate — In this case the corpus is some fund or estate reserved to particular uses. The property of a dead man or estate of an insolvent, and a fund for charity are its examples. Under the Roman Law the estate of a deceased person was regarded as having a legal personality by the notion of hereditas jacens till it was vested in the legal heirs. In the same way the German stiftung, which was an unincorporated fund for charitable purposes, was vested with rights and duties and was itself personified although the property was vested in nobody else.

Kinds of Corporation — Corporations are of two kinds — (i) Corporation aggregate and (ii) Corporation sole.

(i) Corporation Aggregate —A corporation aggregate is a group of co-existing persons, “It is a collection of individuals united into one body under a special denomination, having perpetual succession under an artificial form, and vested by the policy of the law with the capacity of acting in several respects as an individual, particularly of taking and granting property, of contracting obligations and of suing and being sued, of enjoying privileges and immunities in common, and of expressing a variety of political rights, more or less extensive, according to the design of its institution, or the powers conferred upon it either at the time of its creation or at any subsequent period of its existence.” A joint stock company, a municipal corporation, a railway corporation, a chartered university, etc., are examples of a corporation aggregate.

(ii) Corporation Sole — A corporation sole is a series of successive persons. It is a body politic having perpetual succession, constituted in a single person, who, in right of some office or function, has a capacity to take, purchase, hold and demise land and hereditaments and now also to take and hold personal property, to him and his successors in such office for ever, the succession being perpetual, but not always uninterruptedly continuous; that is, there may be, and mostly are, periods in the duration of a corporation sole, occurring irregularly, in which there is a vacancy, or no one in existence in whom the corporation resides and is visibly represented. Ecclesiastical Corporation (Bishop), Crown, the Post Master General, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, etc„ are corporations sole.

A corporation sole does not require a seal, but a corporation aggregate can only act or express its will by deed under its common seal. The power to possess and use a seal in incidental to a corporation. The existence of a common seal is evidence of incorporation and the non-existence of a common seal is evidence against incorporation. A corporation may change its seal at pleasure, so long as the seal, which is actually used, is applied as the seal of the corporation for the time being. An essential element in the legal conception of a corporation is that its identity is continuous, i.e., the original member or members and his or their successors are one. Thus, where a liability or obligation is once binding on a corporation, whether sole or aggregate, it will bind the successors, even though they be not expressly named. A corporation is distinct from its members. A corporation is a legal person just as much as an individual. The liability of an individual member is not increased by the fact that he is the sole person beneficially interested in the property of the corpora-tion. After the dissolution of a corporation the members, in their natural capacities, can neither recover debts which are due to the late corpora-tion nor be charged with debts contracted by it.

(b) (i) Legal Status of Animal —Law does not recognise beasts or lower animals as persons because they are merely things and have no natural or legal rights. Salmond regards them as merely objects of legal rights and duties, but never the subjects of them. That is why their inter-ests are not reconised by law. Though, legal history reveals that archaic codes contained provisions regarding punishment to animals if they were found guilty of homicide. Even under the modern law the trespassing beast may be distrained damage feasant, and detained until its owner or someone else interested in the beast pays compensation to the person wronged. Sutherland refers to certain instances when beasts were pun-ished; If an ox gore a man or a woman to death, then he was stoned and his flesh was not eaten. In Germany, a cock was charged and accused of contumacious crowing. It was brought in the witness box and tried. But the Counsel failed to prove the innocence of his feathered client hence it was killed. In ancient Greek law also there are evidences of animals and tree being punished like human beings.

The modern law, however, holds the master liable for the wrongs caused by their pets, beasts and animals. The liability so imposed on the master does not arise out of the principle of vicarious liability but be-cause of his negligence in keeping the animal well within control. Like-wise, a wrong done to a beast may be a wrong to its owner or to the society of mankind, but not to the beast. The law, however, seeks to extend protection to animals in two ways, namely, (i) cruelty to animals is an offence, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (Act No. 59 of 1960), and (ii) trust for the benefit of a particular class of animals as opposed to one for individual animals is valid and enfoceable as public and charitable trust.

(ii) Legal Status of Dead Man– According to Salmond, the personality of a human being may be said to commence with his birth and cease with his death. Therefore, dead men are no longer persons in the eyes of the law. They cease to have rights since they cease to have any interests nor do they have any duties. A dead man’s corpse is not ‘property’ in the eyes of law. It cannot be disposed of by an instrument. Earlier, it was held that a person cannot, during his life-time, make a will disposing of any part or organ of his body but now-a-days it is perfectly legal to donate eyes or any part of one’s body for the progress of medical science and in the interest of humanity.

According to Salmond, however, law protects a men’s body, his reputation and his estate even after his death i.e.,

1. Though the dead man’s corpse is the property of no one, the law, however, seeks to ensure its decent burial or cremation. The criminal law provides that any imputation against a deceased person, if it harms the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to hurt the feelings of his family or other near relatives, shall be an offence of defamation under S. 499,I.P.C.

2. The reputation of dead men is to some extent protected by the law. The defamation against a dead person is no doubt punishable under the criminal law but only when it affects the interests of his relatives and near ones who are living. The right so protected is in reality not that of the dead man but that of his living decendants.

3. The testamentary dispositions of the dead are carried out by law. A person can, by his will make a valid trust for repairs and mainte-nance of the graveyard because it amounts to a charitable or public trust but he cannot, by a direction in his will provide that certain part of his estate shall be permanently used for the maintenance of his own grave.

(iii) Legal Status of Unborn Person —A child in mother’s womb is by fiction treated as already bora and regarded as person for many purposes. Thus, a gift may be made to a child who is still in the mother’s womb. The Hindu law of partition requires a share to be allotted to a child in mother’s womb along with the other living heirs. However, if the child does not take birth alive, his share may be equally partitioned between the surviving heirs. Thus, proprietary rights of an unborn child are fully recognised by Indian law. Under Ss. 312, 313 & 316, I.P.C. injury to a child in womb is a punishable offence. Doing something which prevents or obstructs the safe delivery of a child taking birth alive has also been considered as an offence under the criminal law. Thus, a child in mother’s womb is entitled for legal protection under the criminal law.

The recognition of legal personality of unborn persons is further confirmed by the provision in English law that a pregnant woman sen-tenced to death shall be respited as of right, until she delivers the child. Later, such expectant mother were sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death under the Sentence of Death (Expectant Mothers) Act., 1931.

Paton does not recognise a child in the mother’s womb as a legal person because he is without rights. In his view, legal personality is conferred on a child only after he is born alive and completely separated from his mother’s womb. It is, however, submitted that this view is not tenable as most legal systems of the world have incorporated provisions in their laws extending legal protection and safeguarding the contingent rights of an unborn child.

(iv) Legal Status of Idol —It has been judicially held that idol is a juristic person and as such it can hold property. Its position is, however, like that of a minor and the priest, i.e., Pujari acts as a guardian to look after its interests. The Privy Council, in Pramatha Nath Mulkk Vs.Pradyumna Kumar Mulick, 1925 held that an idol is juristic person and its will as to its location must be duly respected. The court directed that idol be represented by a disinterested next friend to be appointed by the Court to put up its point of view.

Similar view was reiterated by the Supreme Court of India in Yogendra Nath Naskar Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, 1969 wherein it was held that an idol is a juristic person capable of holding property and of being taxed through its sheba its who are entrusted with the posses-sion and management of its property. An idol can he treated as a unit of assessment for assessing its liability under the Income Tax Act.