What is Human Rights?
Human rights are those rights to which an individual is entitled by virtue of his status as a human being.
Human rights, according to Prof. Durgadas Basu, are those basic rights which an individual, as a member of the human family, enjoys against the state or against any other governmental authority.
The United Nations’ Centre for Human Rights has identified as human rights those rights which are ‘inherent in our nature’ and without which we cannot live as human being.
According to Dr. Upendra Baxi, human rights are ‘Rights of human species’. The Protection of Human Rights Act passed by the Indian Parliament (1993) defines human rights as those rights which are guaranteed by the constitution of India or included in International Covenant. The important human rights are, according to the Act, right to life, liberty, equality and right to dignity which are enforceable by Indian judiciary.
The government of India has set up a National Human Rights Commission since 1993 in order to promote awareness of these rights.
Importance of Human Rights
From time to time philosophers, politicians, social reformers, socialists and others had stressed the importance of human rights. The UN declaration on Human Rights in December, 1948 highlights the need of human rights. This declaration ensures recognition of inborn status and inalienable rights of all members of human species.
The ideals like liberty, justice and world peace without human rights have no value. Violation of human rights and the brutal activities that were committed earlier are nothing but a serious jolt to human civilisation. So, to pay respect to human values, the ‘Universal Declaration’ has proposed to establish a world, where people can freely express their views and have a liberty of belief, free from fear and poverty. Human rights must be protected by laws, so that people do not find themselves constrained to rise in revolt against exploitation and oppression.
Nature of Human Rights
The actual nature of human rights will be clear and distinct only after analysis of the definitions of human rights. The nature of human rights can be discussed under the following aspects:
1. Universality: A man can enjoy human rights by virtue of his status as human being. All categories of people are entitled to enjoy human rights. So, the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948 identified human rights as ‘universal’.
2. Inalienability: By nature human rights are inalienable. So, men cannot hand over these rights to somebody else. Even other individuals have no right to snatch away or destroy such rights. But it is true that all sections of people can never enjoy human rights equally. An honest man is entitled to enjoy all human rights but a criminal or a convicted person cannot claim such rights.
3. Natural Rights: Human rights may be called natural rights in the sense that people acquire these rights from the very inception of their birth. No one delivers those rights to men.
4. Eternal: The duty of every state is to protect and ensure right of the human beings through laws. But in practice, we notice that the state generally tends to interfere unduly with, instead of ensuring, proper enjoyment of rights. Against this interference of the state, people want to establish human rights as eternal right. This demand appears to be rational when rights of the individuals are usually not recognized by the laws of the state. Jack Donnelly beautifully represents the nature’ of human rights by an example. According to him, it may not be always possible to arrest a thief or recover a stolen car. But for this we cannot claim that the owner of the car has lost his ownership right. Similarly, one’s human rights will continue to be one’s rights even after all they are violated or taken away.
5. Inter-relation with duties: The enjoyment of one’s human rights depends on how others perform their duties. Three types of duties are considered essential for the fullest enjoyment of human rights. These are:
- The duty of not depriving others,
- The duty to protect others from deprivation, and
- The duty not to assist in the act of deprivation.
Human rights can be protected if individuals, responsible nations, exploitative companies and others perform the above-mentioned three duties. Thus, man’s rights to be human depend on the performance of duties by the other men and the government.
– Rahul Chopra