This theory is based on the assumption that certain rights belong to man by nature. These are as natural to him as the colour of his skin or his power of locomotion. Natural rights arc inherent in him and he is born with them. These are inalienable rights of man and state has no authority to deprive him of these right John Locke was the main exponent of this theory.
According to him primitive man enjoyed the rights of life, liberty and property in the ‘state of nature’. The Declaration of Rights in the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the First Republic of France are based on the concept of natural rights. The American Declaration guarantees the natural rights of person, property and liberty.
The French Declaration promised the natural rights of person, property, liberty and right of revolt. This concept of natural rights was also accepted during middle ages. To the medieval philosophers, natural rights flow from natural reason. Rights to their reflected natural order.
This theory of natural rights as expounded by Locke is based on the presumption that these rights existed in the state of nature preceding the social and political organization.
(1) This assumption is wrong. this concept of state of nature is unhistorical and illogical.
(2) There can be no rights outside the society. Man enjoys right as a member of society.
(3) The word ‘natural’ is vague. It may mean different things to different people. There is no unanimity among writers as to what actually the natural rights are.
(4) There can be no unanimity about ‘natural reason’. It is a vague concept.
(5) These rights may not be adequate for development of personality. Man needs many more rights than rights of property, liberty and person.
(6) The rights of property may become anti-social under certain conditions. If its possession leads to exploitation of man by man and divides society into haves and have-notes, it becomes an anti-social institution and need not be protected.
(7) This theory assumes that society and state arc artificial and that these have deprived man of his rights. This is wrong. These are natural growth as man could never live without society.
(8) This theory completely ignores duties corresponding to rights.
(9) Rights are conditions essential to development of human personality. These conditions will change from person to person and time to time. Society and man are not static but dynamic.