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Legal personality is generally used to indicate a personality recognized by law. Understanding legal personality is very important because it gives the answers to the basic questions of law i.e., who can be sued? Who can sue? What type of law apply to whom? Nowadays, legal personality has become an important topic for discussion that what rights and responsibilities to confer on legal personality such as a corporation. The term “Person” derives from the Latin word Persona, which was originally used to describe masks used by actors but later it had denoted the character played by the actor, and lastly it came to denote the entity or being. The concept of legal personality has been found in Early Roman, Greek, and Hindu Law because in these laws institutions and groups had certain rights and duties to follow. It means that a legal personality is not necessarily to be a human being, it may be any other thing that the law considers to be a person.

Persons can be classified into[1]

  1. Natural Person: A normal human being can be defined as a natural person. If a natural person posse the status to hold rights and duties, then it is qualified to be a legal person. A natural person is a real human being with a developed thinking capability.
  2. Legal Person:  All the things which are fit to have rights and duties can be consider as legal person. It is not a natural person, rather an image but it has the same value as a person in the eyes of law. Legal personality can be said as a legal fiction or artificial creation of law, these are capable to enter into a legal relationship e.g., Corporation, etc. The essential element of legal personality is what the civil law refers to as “separate patrimony”. This is the ability of the company or firm to own assets that are distinct from the property of other persons, such as, shareholders, investors etc.


1. The legal status of an Unborn person: An unborn person can also become a legal person if that child is conceived in the mother’s womb and it will recognise its rights after the birth of the child. The effect of this can be seen in many Indian Statutes; Under section 13 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, the interest of property can be transferred for the benefit of an unborn person and such transferred interest takes effect when the child comes into existence. In the same way, under section 114 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 also provide the power to create a prior interest before the birth of the unborn person. Even in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, section 299 explanation 3 provides that death of a child when the child is in mother’s womb can amount to culpable homicide provided that any part of the child has come outside the womb and it doesn’t matter that the child has not breathed or not completely born, though the child may not have breathed or been completely born. Similarly, section 315 of IPC makes infliction of prenatal injury on an unborn child as an offence and penalise such act.  Thus, we can conclude that the unborn persons are treated as legal personality for a certain purposes.

2. The legal status of Dead Man: Generally, when a person dies, he ceases to have all the rights which he had as an alive person but the law preserves certain rights for them for the reputation of the person and for the emotions of their relatives. Such rights are; rules for the burial of unclaimed bodies, his property must be transferred according to his testaments, and law also protects the reputation of the dead person. Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan vs. Union of India[2] the court held that even a poor homeless person has the right to have a decent burial of his body.

3. The legal Status of Animals: Although animals are not capable to hold any right and duties, but in older times the situation was different the animals used to punished by people for any wrong that they had done. In modern times wrong committed to or by animals is considered as wrong committed to or by the owner, but law provides certain rights to animals for their protection:-

  • Cruelty towards animals is an offence
  • Charitable public trust made for the benefit of a class of animals (not an individual animal) is valid and enforceable.

4. Legal Status of Idol and Mosque: It has been held by the privy council  in the case of Pramatha Nath Mullick v. Pradymumna Kumar Mullick[3] and by the Supreme Court in Nath Naaskar v. Commissioner of income tax[4] that the Idol is a separate legal entity and also has rights and duty respectively.

5. Legal Status of Corporates: In Indian Law all the Corporates, institutions, companies, associations are considered as a legal entity, although the liability of these legal personalities differentiates from the rights and liabilities of the members of it.

6. Legal Status to River: In 2017 Uttarakhand High Court held that Ganga and Yamuna river will be considered as legal entity With rights, duties and liabilities of a living persons. It can be helpful in stopping the current domination of people over nature.


After all the discussion we can understand that Personality in Law has a much wider meaning than it has in a general sense, this term not only represents an individual but a group of individuals in a whole, where that group or entity enjoys certain rights, duties and liabilities same a natural person. But the rights of a natural person cannot be equated with that of a legal persons because being a natural human being the natural person enjoys many human rights which can never be available to the legal persons. So the concept of legal personality is totally based on the rights and duties which are given to them, and without which it can never be regarded as a legal personality.

Thus, for defining the liability of a bigger entity than human beings, the concept of legal personality is very important. Otherwise it will be very difficult to fix the liability and do justice with those people whose rights are infringed because of these legal personalities.

Author’s Name: Chittrupa (University of Allahabad)

[1] Prof. Nomita Aggarwal, Jurisprudence: Legal Theory (Allahabad, Central Law Agency) 11th Ed. 2019 p.179

[2]  AIR 2002 SC 554

[3] (1925) 27 BOMLR 1064

[4] 1969 AIR 1089

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