Understanding Legal Subjects in Civil Law

Adam Ilyas

Understanding Legal Subjects in Civil Law

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Understanding Legal Subjects in Civil Law
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Legal Literacy  – This article discusses the subject of law which is divided into three types, namely the natural person (natuurlijke persoon), legal person (rechts persoon), and figures/officials. The article also informs about the changes in determining the age of majority according to Article 39 paragraph 1 of Law No. 30/2004 on the Position of Notary.

A legal subject is anything that can have rights and obligations under the law, or anything that supports rights and obligations under the law. This means that any being authorised to have, acquire and exercise rights and obligations under the law is a legal subject. Legal subjects have certain characteristics such as being independent, protected (in the case of lack of age or incapacity), and intermediary.

Three Types of Legal Subjects

  1. Natural person (natuurlijke persoon
  2. Legal person (rechts persoon
  3. Figure/official 

In general, the classification of legal subjects is divided into two, namely humans or natural persons and legal entities or legal persons.

a. Human/Person

Every person, whether a citizen or a foreigner, has the status of a legal subject. Therefore, it can be said that everyone is considered a legal subject from birth to death. 

As a legal subject, everyone has rights that can be exercised and guaranteed by applicable law.

Article 1 of the Civil Code states that the right of citizenship can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of his or her nationality status. In addition, everyone is considered capable of acting as a legal subject unless the law states otherwise. 

The requirements to have legal capacity include: 

  • A person who is an adult (21 years of age or older) 
  • A person who is under 21 years old but married 
  • A person who is not serving a sentence 
  • Be of sound mind and not mentally ill

The conditions that do not have legal capacity include: 

  • A person who is not an adult 
  • People who suffer from memory loss 
  • People who lack a cool head 
  • Persons placed under guardianship 
  • A married woman (Article 1330 of the Civil Code).

Some consider coming of age for a teenager to be an achievement worth celebrating. In general, if a person has celebrated their 17th birthday and has an ID card or driving licence, then they are considered an adult. This means that they have changed from being a child to an adult and can take responsibility for themselves legally.

The age of majority is very important in the eyes of the law because it relates to the legality of legal actions carried out by a person or the acceptance of the status of a legal subject. In other words, when a person reaches the age of majority, he or she has the right to enter into agreements with others and take certain legal actions, such as selling or buying land or houses in his or her own name without the assistance of parents as guardians. However, is someone who is 17 years old considered an adult in the eyes of the law?

Apparently, people’s perception of the age of majority is different from the legal age of majority. According to Marriage Law No. 1/1974 and the Civil Code, a person is considered an adult when he or she reaches the age of 21 or is married. Over the years, this age of majority has been followed by all legal experts in Indonesia. Therefore, if any land or building is registered in the name of a child who has not yet reached the age of 21, the sale or purchase of the property requires the permission or determination of the local District Court.

The same applies when setting up a PT/CV/FIRMA/FUNDATION, if one of the founders is under 21 years old, then it must be represented by one of the parents. 


However, since 6 October 2004 when Law No. 30/2004 on the Office of Notary was enacted, there has been a change in determining the age of majority. According to Article 39 paragraph 1, a person must fulfil the following requirements: (a) at least 18 years old or married, and (b) being capable of performing legal acts. Therefore, it can be concluded that everyone who is 18 years of age or older or married is considered an adult and has the right to act as a legal subject.

According to Zainuddin Ali, law relates to rights and obligations. Every person as a legal subject has rights and obligations. However, not everyone is allowed to act alone in exercising their rights, such as people who are minors or have not reached the age of 18, people who are mentally unfit, or under guardianship. Such incapable persons must be represented or assisted by another person in performing legal acts.

b. Legal Entity 

A legal entity or rechts persoon is a group of people formed by law as a legal subject that can perform legal actions like humans. They can own property, enter into agreements, and perform actions that can give rise to legal relationships. The wealth of a legal entity is separate from the wealth of its members, so the legal entity can act through its administrators. A legal entity can also have rights and obligations separate from those of its members. It has important importance in the economic field, especially in trade. Thus, a legal entity can be considered as an entity that has assets, rights, and obligations like a private person.

An example of applying for a legal entity can be done with the following steps: first, draw up a notarial deed; second, register the legal entity with the office of the Registrar of the local State Court; third, request the ratification of the Articles of Association (AD) to the Minister of Law and Human Rights or the Minister of Finance for pension fund legal entities; fourth, publish in the State Gazette of the Republic of Indonesia.

There are many opinions on how legal entities can have the nature of legal subjects like humans. Various theories have been developed in academia to explain this. According to Salim HS, the theory of concession is the most influential theory in positive law. This theory states that legal entities cannot have legal personality such as rights, obligations, and property, unless authorised by the law, which in essence is the state itself.

Two types of legal entities are distinguished, namely:

1. Public Law Entity (Publiek Rechts Persoon) 

These are legal entities established for the benefit of the public or society at large. Public legal entities are legal entities established by the government or a management body assigned to it, such as the Republic of Indonesia, Regional Governments of levels I and II, Bank Indonesia, and State Companies.

2. Private Legal Entity (Privat Recths Persoon) 

This is a legal entity established under civil or civil law that concerns the interests of many people within the legal entity. Private legal entities are private legal entities established by people for specific purposes, such as profit, social, education, science, and others according to legally applicable laws, such as limited liability companies, cooperatives, foundations, charities.

According to J.J. Dormeier, Legal Entities can be explained as follows: 

Legal Entities include human associations that act as one legal entity and foundations, which are assets used for a specific purpose. In addition to humans, Legal Entities in law have rights and perform legal actions like humans, and have their own assets, are represented by administrators, and can be sued or sued before a judge.

Legal entities can be divided into two types, namely public legal entities such as states, provinces, and districts, and civil legal entities such as limited liability companies (PT), foundations, and cooperatives.

From the explanation above, conclusions can be drawn about the definition of a Legal Entity as a legal subject which includes the following matters: 

  1. groups of people (organisations); 
  2. capable of performing legal acts in legal relations; 
  3. owning their own assets; 
  4. has a caretaker; 
  5. have rights and obligations; 
  6. may be sued or challenged before the court. 

Also Read:  Complete Guide to Derden Verzet in Civil Law

As a legal subject, a Legal Entity must fulfil the requirements set out by law, namely: 

  1. has assets that are separate from those of its members; 
  2. The rights and obligations of the Legal Entity are separate from the rights and obligations of its members. 

There are four theories used as a requirement for Legal Entities to become legal subjects, namely: 

  1. Fictitious Theory which states that Legal Entities are only created by the state; 
  2. The Aimed Wealth Theory that only humans can be the subject of law; 
  3. Ownership Theory which states that the rights and obligations of the Legal Entity are essentially the rights and obligations of the members together; and 
  4. Organ Theory which states that Legal Entities are entities that are truly present in legal life.

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