Concept of Rights and Duties under Jurisprudence

Concept of Rights and Duties under Jurisprudence


One cannot imagine his/her life without Rights. Rights form a very essential element in everyone’s life just like any other essentials. Duties go hand in hand with Rights. It would not be wrong to say that both are twins to each other sprouted from a same root. Both the concepts of Rights and Duties have been deeply discussed under the roof of Jurisprudence. Many Worldly known Jurists and Academicians have tried to define their own ideas and criticize the other’s.

This small piece of writing tries to describe Concept of Rights and Duties under Jurisprudence.

Definitions of Right

As mentioned earlier, right has been defined by many jurists so lets have a look on some of the eminent ones.

Austin: According to this Jurist, Right is nothing but a “Faculty which resides in a determinate party or parties by virtue of a given law and which avails against the party or parties ( in simple words, answer to a duty lying on a party or parties) other than a party or parties, whom it resides.” A clear understanding of this definition will let you know that right has always a corresponding duty.

Holland: Holland somehow follows the definition given by Austin. According to him legal right is, “capacity residing in one man of controlling, with the assent and assistance of the state the actions of others.”

Salmond: This great jurist is of different view. He defines Right from different perspective. According to him, “A right is an interest recognized and protected by a rule of right. It is an interest, respect for which is a duty, and disregard of which is a wrong.” In this definition it is made clear that there are basically two main elements in this definition i.e. a rule of right and right is an interest.

Honorable, Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Union of India (A.I.R. 1977 S.C. 1361) observed, “In a strict sense, legal rights are correlative of legal duties and are defined as interests whom the law protects by imposing corresponding duties on others. But in generic sense, the word RIGHT is used to mean immunity from the legal power of another, immunity is exemption from the power of another. Immunity in short is no subjection.”

Theories of Right

There are basically two main theories of Legal rights i.e. the will theory of right and the interest Theory of right. Let’s have a brief discussion on both of these theories.

Will Theory: According to this theory, right emerges from the Human will. The purpose of law is to grant the individual the means of self expression. “Will’” Constitutes a main element in the definitions of Austin, Holland, Pollock and Vinogradoff. A doctrine of Natural Right gives an enormous support to this theory. The Jurists of Metaphysical Approach are also a staunch supporter of this view.

However Jurists like Duguit has vehemently criticized this theory.

Interest Theory: A great German Jurist i.e. Ihering is a profounder of this theory. According to him, “Legal Right is a legally protected interest.” He was of the view that basis of right is ‘interest’ not the ‘will’.

Elements of legal right

There are basically four main elements which constitute a legal right. These are

  • Subject: It basically refers to those persons with whom the right is vested and is holder of the right.
  • Act or Forbearance: Legal right basically obliges a person to perform some act or forbear in the favor those individuals who is entitled to a right.
  • Object of Right: It basically refers to certain issue in respect of which the given right is exercised.
  • Person bound: It refers to the person with whom there forms a correlative duty.

Rights and Duties

These both are very important component of law. Justice cannot be administered until and unless Rights are enforced and Duties are fulfilled. As discussed in introduction, that Rights and Duties are correlated with each other and one cannot be imagined without the other. In simple words, Existence of both these individual component is dependent on each other. It is a well established fact that right of one is an obligation for another.

  • According to Austin, there are four kinds of absolute duties. i.e.
  • Duties not regarding person
  • Duties owed to persons indefinitely
  • Self regarding duties
  • Duties Owed to the sovereign

Classification of Duties

As like any other concept, Duties too have been classified further. In jurisprudence, Duties have been classified under two different heads. So lets have a quick overview of both these heads.

Positive and Negative Duties: Duties has been classified either as positive or as negative. Positive Duties means some act on the part of the person on whom it is imposed. If a Student owes Book to another, so here the former is under the duty to return that book to the latter one. So here this duty is a Positive duty.

Coming on to Negative duty, it basically implies a forbearance on the part of the person on whom it is imposed. Just suppose an individual owns a property so others are in the duty to not to interfere with his/her property. So here this duty is negative duty.

Primary and Secondary Duties: Primary duties refer to those duties which exist per se and are basically independent of any other duty. In this the duty is not to cause any harm to any other individual. Coming on to Secondary Duties, it refers to those duties whose ultimate purpose is to enforce some other duty. For example, if an individual causes an injury to another, here former is in a duty to pay damages to latter. So this duty is termed as Secondary Duty. On the other hand, a duty to not to cause injury to other persons is a primary duty.


Undoubtedly, Rights and Duties forms a very important part of our life. In practical sense, people are actually concerned about their rights but are consistently negligent about their duties. As discussed earlier, both these rights and duties go hand in hand and should enjoyed concurrently. It is not possible to enjoy rights and refrain from performing duties.

Both these terms have been defined by many jurists and individuals. One thing should be taken care of that their definition generally reflects their own personal experience in legal system. Background of these jurists should be kept in mind which interpreting their definitions. However, no single definition can give us a full picture. So, a comprehensive view of all these definition should be taken while studying it.


Leave a Comment