Personhood: India and UK Comparison

14 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2023

See all articles by Anubha Singh Dhapwal

Anubha Singh Dhapwal

National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopa

Date Written: May 25, 2021


Very often “personhood” and “humanhood” are used interchangeably. Black’s law dictionary defines personhood as “a person is any being whom the law regards as capable of rights and duties”. Theoretically, only human beings can hold legal rights and therefore, nonhuman animals are not regarded as legal persons as they don’t hold legal rights. If we take into consideration various theories of rights, we will notice that historically, the acknowledgment of rights has been associated with the levying of societal obligations and duties.

Following the theory, courts of various jurisdictions believe that nonhumans cannot fulfill the criteria of “social obligations” in exchange for rights, therefore, it’d be inappropriate to confer legal rights upon such nonhumans. Although animals haven’t been conferred with the status of legal personhood, various countries have now implemented animal welfare statutes that vest legal rights on such non-humans. There is no clear-cut distinction between legal personhood and non-humans as there are instances wherein entities have been considered as a legal person for one purpose but were not regarded as legal persons in a general sense.

Therefore, personhood is a multifaceted disjunctive property that includes various incidents of personhood. These incidents of personhood can be divided into 2 categories – active and passive. The former is primarily applicable to adult humans with a sound mind as it deals with the right to enter into a contractual relationship and is applicable to those whose behavior is regulated through statutes and upon deviation from the regulated behavior, they can be held accountable for their actions. Active legal personhood is also known as legal competence whereas passive legal personhood is known as legal capacity, which denotes a person’s capacity to hold rights and bear duties.

In this project, the author will discuss various entities that have been vested with the status of legal personhood and whether such vesting of legal rights is justified under the public policy and various theories concerning rights. The legal rights which are vested in these nonhuman persons consist of 3 elements: legal standing, right to enter into a contractual relational and enforce the same, and right to own property.

Suggested Citation

Singh Dhapwal, Anubha, Personhood: India and UK Comparison (May 25, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Anubha Singh Dhapwal (Contact Author)

National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopa ( email )

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