‘Rights’, according to the Longman Dictionary are the political, social and other advantages to which one has a just claim, morally or legally. Salmond defines ‘right’ as an interest recognised and protected by the law, respect for which is a duty and disregard of which is a wrong (Salmond).
As per Holland, A capacity residing in one man of controlling with the assent and assistance of the State, the actions of others.
Definition given by H.J. Laski, which appears more relevant in the present contest is, ‘Rights are those conditions of life without which no man can be at the best.’ In the words of Woodrow Wilson; The history of liberty is the history of resistance – history of limitations of governmental powers.
Since ancient times Hindu religious books have given prime importance to divinity of all human being. Every human being is considered as divine being and has a claim to dignity, liberty and equality. The history of liberty is the history of resistance History of limitations of governmental powers.”
S. 2(d) of Human Rights Act, “Human Rights” means the right relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the International covenants and enforceable by courts in India.
After the bitter experience of two world wars human race became conscious to protect their right as the only mean to save their identity. This doesn’t mean that before 20th century no consideration was paid on Human rights, we can see serious efforts in the form of Magna Carta, the Virginia Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of the United States in this context.
10th December 1948 is a landmark in the scenario of human rights, as on that day the General Assembly of United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Preamble of this declaration provides.
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
If we study declaration with ref. to Indian Constitution, all the rights are enshrined in the Constitution of India either as “Fundamental Rights” in Chapter II under Art. 12 to 35 or as “Directive Principle” in chapter IV. The Preamble to the Constitution of India states,
“We the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens justice, social, economic and political, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, Equality of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
So far as the Human Rights declaration is concerned, it has been criticized, primarily because of lack of sanction against the violating states.