Concept of Legal Personality

The origin of the word person was actually a Latin word ‘persona’ which meant a mask, a false face. Later a word ‘person’ was developed in old French which meant anyone or a human being. The use of –person to replace –man for gender neutralisation was recorded in 1971 (in chairperson).[1] It started to be used in the sense of a living being who can have certain rights and duties under a law system.

The main aim of the law is to regulate order in a society. A society comprises of the individuals who are part of it. The individuals can be regarded as persons and are associated with legal personalities through which they can be conferred with rights and duties.

Salmond has defined a person as “a being whom the law regards to be capable of rights and duties.”[2]


There are two kinds of legal persons that are recognized by the law.

  1. Natural Person – It means all the living human beings. It has however exceptions like a lunatic, a minor.
  2. Legal / Artificial Person – It can be anything to which la considers fit to provide with rights and duties. Its nature is imaginary but status holds value in-laws.

Following are some of the legal personalities recognised by law –


A child who is not even born yet is also considered a legal person. Law recognises the rights of such person too provided such child be born subsequently. The obligations to an unborn child are important and can be seen in various statutes in Indian Law too.

Section 299 of IPC, explanation 3 states that death of a child inside mother’s womb can amount to culpable homicide if any part of the child has been brought forth, though the child may not have breathed or been completely born.[3]

In Pinchin N. O vs. Santam Insurance Co. 1863- held that child can take action who gets deformed due to a prenatal injury while he was in the womb.[6]


A person if dies may not be considered a natural person anymore but the law recognises some of the rights of dead persons. The following rights are protected –

  • Right of Body

It is protected under the law. Certain rules are to be followed regarding the burial of unclaimed bodies. Also, the grave violation is considered an offence.

  • Right of Property

The property of a dead person is transferred according to the testament made by him.

  • Right of Reputation

Law protects the reputation of a dead person if it affects the family of the deceased.

In Williams vs. William, It was held that it was completely legal if a person makes a will to donate his organs after his death.[7]


ANIMALS – In 2019, Chandigarh High Court said in a cow smuggling case that the entire animal kingdom has a “distinct legal persona with corresponding rights and liabilities of a living person.

ANIMAL WELFARE BOARD OF INDIA VS. NAGARAJA[8], Held that not only humans have the right to dignity but animals have this right too as per Art. 21 of Constitution of India.

  • DEITIES – The legal identity was given to deities decades ago. However, the most recent example is the Ayodhya Dispute where the litigant was Bhagwan Ram Virajman fighting a case through his representative DeokiNandan Agarwal.
  • RIVERS – Uttarakhand High Court gave Ganga a legal status of “living entities”. This was because of the over pollution caused due to waste dumping and ritual bathing. Since the rivers can’t take action so they have been assigned with three legal guardians to ensure they’re well being.[9]
  • Corporations and more – A corporation is recognised as a legal person in English law as well as in Indian Law. A corporation has a legal personality of its own and can sue and be sued under its own name. It has a perpetual existence i.e. it doesn’t end when it’s all individual members die, it continues being itself even though it was created by them in the first place.[10]

Others like Banks, Universities, Railways also enjoy the same status of being a legal personality.


So now it is obvious to say that legal personality is a much wider term. It includes not only living human beings but also various other things or beings mentioned above. The whole concept is that a legal personality enjoys rights and duties. So the concept of a legal person is a fiction created by law which ensures rights to even those who are not just humans.












This article is written by Ankit Bisht student of 2nd year B.A.LL.B at JEMTEC, Greater Noida, GGPSIU

Also Read: Explain Mother’s Liability In Pre-Natal Injuries

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