Man is social animal. He is born and develops in society. For the development of his personality, certain facilities are necessary which he gets from society and the state. These facilities are known as rights. In other words, rights are those conditions of social life which are necessary for the development of an individual. Democratic system is based on the freedom of the people to enjoy rights.
For a proper understanding of rights, it is necessary to know about their characteristics. These are as under:
Rights can be possible only in society:
Rights can be possible only in society. Outside society, they neither have any importance nor any necessity. Only when a person lives with others in society, he feels the need to get certain things done by others. Rights cannot be enjoyed outside the society.
Right is a claim:
Right is a claim of the individual towards society, which has been accepted by the society. These claims should be based on reason and good behaviour. Only that claim becomes right which is useful for both the individual and the society.
A claim which is harmful for the individual or society cannot be accepted as right. For example to steal or to commit murder cannot be accepted as claims since these are not reasonable and moral.
Rights are not absolute:
Individual is given only those rights which are based on reason and good behaviour. Nobody can be given the right to commit theft, gambling or to murder others.
Rights are universal:
Rights are given to all the persons living in society. If the enjoyment of certain rights is necessary for an individual, it is necessary for others too. There cannot be permanent peace in a state in which distinction is made among citizens on the basis of caste, religion or sex while granting them rights.
Rights are for social welfare:
Citizens should enjoy their rights to promote social welfare. Since a citizen gets rights from the society, these should be used for the welfare of the society. Besides his own interest, any individual should keep in mind the interest of the society as well, while exercising these rights.
State protects rights:
There is the force of state behind rights. It is the responsibility of the state to see that all must enjoy their rights equally. Those, who violate these rights, are punished by the state.
Rights and duties are co-related:
Rights and duties go together. It is the duty of an individual to let others enjoy the same right which he wants for himself. In fact, rights and duties are the two sides of the same coin. Both are social in nature and both are conditions of good life. If every person puts more emphasize on his rights and does not perform his duties towards others, then no one in society will be able to enjoy his rights.
Rights are dynamic:
The last characteristic of rights is that they are dynamic. They keep on changing with the change in political, social, economic and moral conditions of the society.
Natural rights are those rights which an individual gets from nature. Some writers are of the view that before the origin of state, man enjoyed certain natural rights in the state of nature. According to Locke, three natural rights-right to life, property and freedom-were given to man by nature.
But this view is not accepted in modern times. How could a person enjoy rights before the origin of society and state. Rights are possible only in society. Society gives rights and protects them.
Moral rights are those rights which are based on the morality of the individual. Although these rights have social sanction, they do not have the force of state laws behind them. People obey them due to fear of society, not due to fear of punishment by the state.
The right of the presents to get obedience from their children, the right of teachers to get respect from students, the rights of children to get help from parents etc. are moral rights. If any person does not accept these rights, he can be ridiculed by the society but the state cannot punish him.
Legal rights are those rights which are recognised by the state and are enforced by the state. If any person violates them, he can be punished by the state. For example, if a person deprives anyone of his property or attacks another person, he can be punished by the state.
Legal rights can be further divided into the following categories:
1. Civil or Social Rights
2. Political Rights
3. Economic Rights
4. Fundamental Rights