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M. Satyavathi

“Rights are those conditions of social life without which no man can be of his best self.” Theage-old statement of H.J.Laski stands perfect even today. Rights are essential for the growth of human talent and progress of civilizations. Man is the only animal that thinks and searches to know the unknown. To develop his zeal to enquire into nature requires freedom to think write and express. In the absence of these rights there would have been no change in the history of man. The civilizations established long ago would not have stepped on the moon or entered into the space. There are many types of rights viz. natural, political, economic, civil, social, fundamental which are considered as universal rights.

Natural Rights: Natural rights are those rights that are inherent, inalienable and inborn that exist in nature. They need no legal or social sanction. They are neither based on customs nor traditions. They require no government approval. Failure of these rights establishes slavery and creates a static society. The judicial system everywhere must not only protect but also act as a citadel of justice. These rights include ‘right to life’, ‘right to freedom’ and ‘right to recreation’.

Political Rights: Political rights are those rights that provide an opportunity to work freely in the political system. Democratic governments must provide these rights to all its citizens as they are the backbone of democracies. However, these rights were not sanctioned to women till the beginning of 20th century in the world. Surprisingly, in Switzerland which is considered as the choicest bliss of democracy provided political rights to women in 1969. The Indian Republic guaranteed universal suffrage to all citizens since its inception. The political rights are right to vote, right to contest or participate, right to protest and criticize the government. In most of the developing countries right to participate became a myth as contesting needs money and muscle power along with strong support. Even criticizing the government is not taken in true spirit, most of the representatives are intolerant to criticism, pointing the weakness of any policy is considered as anti-social, anti-national and sometimes even unpatriotic. This attitude is dangerous for the survival of democratic polity. Criticism has to be taken in the right spirit to strengthen democratic values and promote mutual respect. Even right to dissent and protest are important in a representative democracy. These rights encourage peoples’ participation.

Economic Rights: Economic Rights are considered as second generation of rights. These rights are protected by the governments to ensure the basic needs of Man. These include Right to earn one’s own living that is right to work, right to adequate standard of living, right to decent wages and limited working hours. These rights protect the working class from exploitation.

Civil Rights: These rights are considered as vital components of modern civilizations. They guarantee opportunities to all and protect the citizens from arbitrary rule. The civil rights include right to life, right to liberty, right to education, right to health, right to personal freedom, privacy and rule of law, etc. There were many Civil rights movements across the world. Most famous is the civil rights movement in US. This movement fought for the restoration of civil rights to African- Americans. The struggle was to oppose the racial discrimination and establish equal rights and opportunities to all.

In India the Civil rights movement picked up momentum after declaration of 1975 Emergency suspending under Article 352(1) the enforcement of basic fundamental rights of equality, liberty and right to life (Article 14, 20 and 21). The draconian emergency period of 18 months led to the large scale abuse of executive power resulting in violation of basic civil, economic and social rights of the people. It also promoted evil practices like corruption, nepotism, criminalization in politics and society, casteism, communal conflicts, lack of professionalism in state administration. To restore the basic civil and democratic rights and eradicate the evil practices, PUDR (Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights) and PUCL (Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties) came into existence with the efforts of JP (Jai Prakash Narayan), V.M. Tarkonde and others.

Social Rights: Social rights are the rights arising from social contract. They are not natural but exist in the society. They require social sanction and legal recognition. They include right to physical and mental health, right to social security, right to healthy environment, right to education etc. They are for social good and social development.

Fundamental Rights: Fundamental rights are those rights that are given by the constitution to its people for basic human development. They determine the nature of the constitution. Part III of Indian constitution mentions six fundamental rights. In the original constitution there were seven rights but right to property was deleted from this list and made as a legal right by 44thamendment and article 300-A was added. These rights are right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to religion, cultural and educational right and right to constitutional remedies. Violation of these rights can be questioned in a court of law.

Universal Human Rights Declaration: On 10th December 1948 a declaration of Universal Human Rights made by the United Nations General Assembly is a milestone in truest sense. It was signed by 48 nations out of 58 nations. Among the ten who did not sign, two did not vote and eight remained absent. This declaration is the culmination of human endeavor of universal development and establishment of democratic values. The declaration contains broad range of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. All people are entitled to these rights without any discrimination. These rights are basic freedoms required for everyone in the world from birth to death. They are based on shared values like dignity, respect, fairness, equality, independence etc. and protecting people from abuse of power and exploitation.

There is no legal sanction for these universal rights hence not binding on any government but they gave inspiration for the drafting of two legally binding covenants. One economic, social and cultural rights and the other is civil and political rights that are applicable to all nations of UN. Originally, they were written in English and French and later translated into 500 languages. Amnesty international is an international organization of volunteers who campaign for human rights. This organization brings out independent reports on the violation of human rights across the world. In addition, world human rights watch and National Human Rights Commissions in every nation work for the protection of these rights.

In India, National Human Rights Commission is a statutory body constituted on 12th October 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights Ordinance. It consists of seven members and a Chairman who are appointed by the President of India. The Chairman will be from retired Chief Justices of India and other members are different officials, eminent personalities and retired judges. Although its findings have no legal sanction, it submits its report to the government. Every state has its State Human Rights Commissions. These commissions may direct the court to take necessary action.

The awakening of social consciousness, the development of democratic values, protection of social justice and implementation of rule of law are necessary to preserve, protect and promote these Human Rights.


M. Satyavathi

Retired P.G.T., Political Science

Oxford Senior Secondary School

Vikas Puri, New Delhi

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