Jurists have defined persons in different ways. German jurist Zitelmana considers “will” as the essence of legal personality. To quote him, “personality is the legal capacity of will, the bodily-ness of men for their personality is a wholly irrelevant attribute”.
Salmond defines a person as “any being to whom the law regards as capable of rights and 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”.
Thus „persons‟ in juristic terms are of two kinds, namely natural and legal. The former are human beings capable of rights and duties while the later i.e. the legal persons are being who may be real (natural) or imaginary (artificial), in whom law vests rights and imposes duties and thus attributes personality by way of fiction. A juristic person is not a human being. It may be any other subject matter; either a thing or a mass of property or group of human beings to which they attributes personality. In other words, juristic persons may be defined as things, mass of property or an institution upon whom the law confers a legal status and who in the eyes of law possess rights and duties as a natural person.
Juristic or legal person is one to which law attributes legal personality. Normally legal personality is granted by law to all human beings. Legal personality, being an artificial creation of the law, may be conferred on entities other individual human beings. The law, in creating legal persons, always does so by personifying some real thing. Though it is not necessary for law to personify, since the law might, if it so pleased, attribute the quality of personality to a purely imaginary being but personification, in fact, conduces so greatly to simplicity of thought and speech that its aid is invariably accepted. Law may, if it so provides withdraw personality from certain human beings. Being the arbitrary creation of the law, legal persons may be of as many kinds as the law pleases. Corporations are undoubtedly legal persons211 and the better view is that registered trade unions and friendly societies are also legal persons, though not registered as corporations.
The conception of legal personality is not limited in its application. There are several distinct varieties of such persons, notably the first class of legal persons consists of corporations, namely those which are constituted by the personification of groups (e.g. corporation aggregate) or series of individual (e.g., for corporation sole).
The second class is that in which corporations or objects selected for personification are not a group or series of persons but an institution. The law may, if it pleases, regard a church, a hospital, a university or a library as a person. That is to say it may attribute personality not to any group of persons connected with the institution, but to the institution itself. English Law does not indeed, so deal with the matter. The University of London is not the institution that goes by that name but a personified and incorporate aggregate of human beings namely, the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor, Fellows and Graduates. It is to be noted, however, that notwithstanding this tradition and practice of English Law, legal personality is not limited by any logical necessity or indeed by any obvious requirement of expediency to the incorporated bodies of individual persons. In India, institutions like a university, a temple, public authorities, etc. are considered to be legal persons.
The third kind of legal person is that in which the corpus is some fund or estate devoted to special uses- a charitable fund for example, or a trust estate, or the property of a dead man or of a bankrupt. Here, also English Law prefers the process of incorporation. If it chooses to personify at all, it personifies not the fund or the estate, but the body of persons who administer it. Yet the alterative viz., of personifying the fund or estate is equally possible and may be equally expedient.
Courtesy:- Legal Point Foundation