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Legal Status Of Unborn, Dead Person And Animal

Geopolitical social changes set alterations into social reality providing for the creation of appropriate conditions for an individual as to the development of his personality, the protection of his needs and legal interests. Modern personality requires from society the opportunities to act and live according to the principles of justice, equality and solidarity.

However, only declarative and philosophical approach is not enough here. We need necessary legal instruments and mechanisms for protection of a man and his life, views and preferences, rights and freedoms as valuable categories for the state and the society.

Modern jurisprudence considers humanism as one of the most important principles of law, since a civilized society is the basis for the development of a person's rights. The man does not exist as an abstract category within law, but serves as its subject that owns legal status. That man is the creator of law and the civil society provides a person not only with protection and defense, but also the ability to take an active part in public administration that involves postulating the autonomy and individuality of each human being as a basic constitutional value.
  1. Legal Status Of Unborn Person

    The legal understanding of the concept of person or personality revolves around possession of rights and capacity to discharge legal duties. Hence, natural persons, that is, human beings are the prime claimants of legal personality. Legal personality of natural persons begins at birth and extinguishes with death with the result that pre-birth, post death stages are devoid of any legal persona.

    Understanding absence of personality in the pre-birth stage poses problems as the unborn being understood as incapable of exercising any legal rights and not being duty bound towards anybody, gets a raw deal when it comes to tortious acts committed towards it. There are crimes committed against them that are not recognised as such and hence make punishment impossible.

    For law, the problem is complicated by other disciplines like theology and medicine maintaining the unborn to be living entity. A natural person must be a living human being, i.e., must not be a monster and must be born alive to be ranked as a person in law. The exception to this rule is that of an infant en ventresa mere (child in womb), who is supposed to be born for many purposes. A child in its mother's womb can acquire certain rights and inherit properly, but the rights are contingent on his being born alive. He is counted as a person for purposes of partition. Such a child can claim damages for injury sustained while in its mother's womb.

    A pregnant woman condemned to death is respite as of right till the delivery of the child. A child not yet conceived cannot be deemed to be a person, although provision may be made for such beings contingently coming into existence by vesting property in trustees for them. The creation of proprietary rights in favour of unborn persons is governed by the rule against perpetuity.

    That rule provides that you cannot postpone vesting of an estate beyond a longer period than the lifetime of the transferee or transferees existing at the date of the transfer and the minority of the ultimate unborn beneficiary. The contingent rights of unborn persons become vested on birth or at the end of such period not exceeding that prescribed by the rule against perpetuity, as may be fixed by the person granting the rights to unborn persons.

  2. Legal Status Of Dead Persons

    Dead men are no longer persons in the eye of law. They have laid down their legal personality with their lives, and are now as destitute of rights as of liabilities. They have n rights because they have no interests. They do not even remain the owners of their property until their successors enter upon their inheritance. However, there are three things, more especially, in respect of which the anxieties of living men extend beyond the period of their deaths, in such sort that the law will take notice of them.

    These are man's body, his reputation and his estate. Dead men are not legal persons. They are immune from duties as no sanction can be enforced against them. They are not the subjects of rights either. With their death they lay down their legal personality and as such are destitute of legal rights and duties.

    The law, however, interferes with respect to a dead person in the following ways:
    1. A corpse is not a property and cannot be disposed of by will. But every person dying has a right to a decent burial and the criminal law secures it.

    2. The law protects the reputation of dead persons from libelous attacks. Under the Indian Penal Code it is defamation to impute anything to a deceased person if the same would harm the reputation of that person if living and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relations. But here also the law does not protect a dead person from being libeled but protects the living descendants who would suffer by an attack upon their deceased ancestor.

    3. A man has extensive power to regulate by will the disposition and enjoyment of the property which he leaves, subject of course to the restriction imposed by law. But here again the testamentary dispositions are calculated only to protect the interests of living persons.

  3. Legal Status Of Lower Animal

    In the present day context, the animals are deemed incapable of possessing legal rights & duties. They are merely things, often the objects of legal rights and duties but they are never subjects of them.
For example:
A beast has no legal personality. Anything done to the animals may be a wrong to its owner or to the society but it is no wrong to the beast. But the animals have two rights to be protected.
  1. Cruelty to animals is made a criminal offence.
  2. A trust for benefit for a particular class of animals as opposed to one for individual animal is valid and enforceable as a public and charitable one.
In law, a man is held liable either for doing acts which are mischievous or for causing actual injury to the plaintiff. Causation, therefore, is an important concept for determining liability in law. In fact, before deciding the question of liability the question of causation should be decided first. Thus, if A is to be held responsible for burning B's house, he must first be shown to have caused it. Causation, therefore, is an important factor to determine responsibility whether it is of a criminal or civil nature.

The causation broadly involves two types of occurrences, namely:
  1. Abnormal factors;
  2. Human acts
Thus in the above illustration where a house has been burnt down, presence of inflammable gas, ignition, an electric short circuit, etc. may be abnormal circumstances causing fire or it may have been caused by some person. Once either of these factors is found present, it is easy to know the causation and attribute responsibility. An act may have been caused due to a change of causation involving several factors. It is the established principle of law that a man is not held liable for his act if the chain of causation is broken or interfered with. This is contained in the maxim - novusactusinterveniens.

SALMOND explains the maxim through an illustration. He says:
if A stabs B and B is taken to hospital where, despite the fact that he is shown to be allergic to terramyein, is injected Math a large dose of it, then his treatment and not the stab would be treated as a cause of B's death because the treatment which was abnormal, broke the casual connection between the -wound by the accused and the victim's death.

The leading case on causation is relation to civil liability is in Re Polemis wherein the defendant's servant carelessly dropped a plank into the ship's hold; the plank struck a spark which ignited petrol vapour whose presence in the hold was unsuspected. The defendant's were, however, held liable for damages caused to the ship. But this decision has been overruled by the Privy Council in Wagon Mound case and now forcibility of consequences is the test for determining causation and liability. In certain cases, the law will presume that a man has intended the natural and probable consequences of his act.

Thus in Scott v. Shepherd the defendant shepherd mischievously threw a lighted cigarette squib into the market place. It fell where Yates sold ginger-bread. One will is, to prevent injury to himself and Yates, picked it up and threw it across when it fell in the shop of one Royal who took it and threw it across when it struck the plaintiffs eye and injured it.

The court held that the injury to the plaintiff was directly and immediately caused by the defendant, as will is and royal, the intermediate agents acted involuntarily and for self protection. The injury was held to be not too remote. It is true that the defendant did not intend to injure the plaintiff and much less to destroy his eye, nevertheless, he was held liable for one must answer for the consequences which common sense would attribute to his wrong doing.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Mohd Aqib Aslam

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