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Jurisprudence

Status of Unborn Child, Minor, Lunatic, Drunk and Dead Person

Who is a person? According to the law, a person is anyone who has certain legal rights and is bound by some legal duties. This person may be real or even imaginary. So then what is the legal status of an unborn child, a minor, a drunk or a lunatic? Let us find out.

Law of Status

Under the eyes of the law, there are two types of legal entities – human and non-human. So a person will be a human legal entity. But a company or corporation, on the other hand, is a judicial (non-human) person or entity. It still has legal rights and duties just like a human entity.

Now the law of status concerns itself with the status of a man in the society. It governs the natural, domestic and the extra domestic status of such a man in the society as a whole. The extra domestic status covers the relations and interactions of the man apart from those with his family.

Thus the law of status will deal with those persons that do not enjoy the privilege of being legal entities, i.e. have no distinct legal personalities. But yet the society has a duty towards them and their well being. These include an unborn child, a minor, a lunatic or a drunk person and even a dead person.

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Legal Status of an Unborn Child

a minor

                                                                                                                                            Source: Amazon.com

A child that is still in the womb of its mother is still not technically a person. But by legal fiction, an unborn child is considered already born. i.e. he is granted a certain legal personality. If the child is born alive he will then enjoy legal status. Let us look at certain provisions made for the unborn child under the Indian law,

  • As per the Transfer of Property Act, we can transfer property for the benefit of the unborn child. This is done via a trust.
  • As per the Indian Succession Act, we can create an interest in the name of the unborn child in a property. But the interest of the property can only be vested after the child is born alive.
  • In a HUF as per Mitakshara Law, an unborn child will have an interest in coparcenary property.
  • Criminal Procedure states that if a female inmate sentenced to death is found to be pregnant, the execution is postponed till the child has a chance to be born.

Legal Status of a Dead Man

A dead person is no more a legal entity. As soon as a person dies, he becomes incapable of enjoying rights or performing his duties. So the legal personality of a person ends with their death.

However, the law does take into account the wishes and desires of the deceased person. And it also ensures that there is no false harm to the reputation of the deceased. As per the Indian law,

  • Every person has the legal right to a decent burial as per their religious faith. Any act that amounts to the indignity of the corpse is punishable by section 297 of the Indian penal code. This also applies to any homeless person without any family.
  • The wishes of a dead person regarding his property must also be fulfilled. This is done for the benefit of the living who are benefitting by such wishes or will.
  • The defamation of a dead person is punishable by section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. This includes anything that harms the reputation of the person with the intention to hurt family members and close relatives.

Legal Status of a Drunkard, a Lunatic and a Minor

Now, the legal status of a drunkard, a minor and a lunatic have some special consideration. These people are all obviously natural persons and all have a legal identity. However, they are considered incapable to enter into a contract.

As per the law, every person who has attained majority is considered capable of entering into a contract. This obviously means a minor is incapable of doing so. Other than that, there are certain persons who are also incapable of entering into a contract.

So any person who is mentally afflicted (includes lunatics and drunk persons) at the time of entering into a contract is incapable of doing so.

Question on status of a Minor, Drunk or Lunatic

Q: Who has to prove the drunkenness or the lunacy of a person to make a contract void?

Ans: A drunk person or a lunatic is incapable of entering into a contract. The burden of proof here falls on the mentally afflicted person themselves, i.e. the drunk person or the lunatic.

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