Relationship between Rights and Duties


In a constitutional democracy, the state provides citizens with rights and responsibilities so that society can coexist peacefully. However, on occasion, the state puts such obligations on its citizens that they impinge on the rights of those on the margins of society.

As a result, the main source of concern is the ambiguous language used in the tasks (as their interpretation is left at the discretion of the State). As a result, citizens’ “duties” are subject to being abused as a tool to impose the State’s or the social majority’s will on disadvantaged groups.

What do you mean by Rights?

Anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy are twin principles that are established through the formulation of rights. This is mirrored in India’s constitution, which includes a chapter on Fundamental Rights.

  1. Rights as a bulwark ( line of defence) against dehumanisation:

When debating Fundamental Rights, the framers of the Indian Constitution believed that every human being should have access to basic dignity and equality, which could not be taken away by the state.

The need for Fundamental Rights in India stems from the colonial era, when Indians were viewed as subjects.

  • For example, the colonial administration labelled some people as Criminal Tribes, and they were treated as second-class citizens.
  1. Rights as a stand against hierarchy:

Gender, caste, and religion have all been used to separate Indian society.

Fundamental Rights, at their most fundamental level, ensure that all citizens are protected not only from the state, but also from societal majorities.

  • Fundamental rights, for example, attempted to reform Indian society by guaranteeing freedom from forced labour, “untouchability,” and discriminatory access to public spaces, among other things.

What do you mean by Duties?

As citizens, we have a variety of responsibilities that we must fulfil in our daily lives. These responsibilities are owed to both the state and people.

There is a legal obligation to pay taxes, refrain from violence towards fellow citizens, and observe other laws approved by Parliament.

Breach of these legal obligations results in monetary penalties (fines) or punitive measures like imprisonment.

Duties are based on the basic premise that peaceful coexistence necessitates some level of self-sacrifice, which must be enforced if required through a set of consequences.

Does this imply that duties are unimportant?

  • As previously stated, duties exist in many aspects of society. However, in a country as divided and unequal as India, the language of responsibilities can play a significant role.
  • Any obligation imposed on citizens must be carried out in accordance with the law.

The notion of ‘due process of law’ states that no one’s life, liberty, or property can be taken away from them unless they are taken in conformity with the law’s express requirements and with due consideration for their rights.

  • The language of obligations can have negative implications if it is not guided by the moral compass of rights and their place in the transformative constitutional structure.

A Supreme Court decision from the early 1980s, for example, maintained the disparate treatment of male and female flight attendants on the grounds that women had a “responsibility” to ensure the “proper upbringing of children” and the success of the country’s “family planning programme.”

What is the relation between rights and duties?

  1. Duties and rights are inextricably linked:

Rights and responsibilities are inextricably linked and cannot be separated. Both work well together. These are two sides of a same coin. When a citizen is granted the right to life, the state also imposes on him the responsibility of not endangering his own life and of respecting the lives of others. If I have the right to work and earn money, it is equally my responsibility to respect the rights of others.

  1. A citizen’s rights imply responsibilities for him:

Individual rights do not belong to a single person. These are given to everyone on an equal basis. This signifies that “others have the same rights that I have, and it is my responsibility to ensure that others enjoy their rights as well.” One man’s right is also his duty, as Laski correctly stated. It is both my responsibility to respect the rights of others and to use my rights for the greater good of society.

  1. The Rights of one is the Duty of others:

Only in the realm of obligations can one enjoy rights. Every right comes with a responsibility. When people fail to carry out their responsibilities correctly, all of their rights become useless. “I can only exercise my rights if others allow me to do so as well. I have the right to life, and it is the responsibility of others to respect that right and not hurt me.”

  1. State-related responsibilities:

Because the state protects and enforces rights, all citizens are obligated to be loyal to the state. It is their responsibility to follow state rules and pay taxes on time. Citizens should be prepared to protect the state at all times. As a result, a citizen has both rights and responsibilities. He has rights and fulfils his responsibilities. The two sides of the same coin are rights and duties.

  1. Rights must be used for the greater good:

Society is the source of rights. As a result, we must continually strive to promote societal interest while using our rights. Every one of us has a responsibility to use our rights to promote the well-being of society as a whole.

In this light, it is vital to remember Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s statements in the Constituent Assembly, which said that the individual remains the essential unit of the Constitution. The argument and interpretation of the term “duties” should encompass the responsibilities of individuals in positions of authority. Others in positions of authority should not use their position to exploit those over whom they have control. We can only ask people to execute their job when we have guaranteed to all the entire sum of humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom provided by the Constitution. The responsibility of ‘following the tasks’ should be imposed on citizens only after securing humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom for all, as promised by the Constitution.

Author: Ankita Sharma,
Sharda University

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