(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Human Rights)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Human Rights)

Human rights are defined as those rights which are available to all individuals by virtue of being a human being. Therefore hum right includes within its purview all those rights which are essential for human existence. They are different from traditional theories of rights becomes in dominant legal theories which is today accepted in most of the countries, only those rights are available to individual which are given by the state. But the notion of human rights also accepts the rights which are not accepted by state but which are essential for human existence. Human rights are secular version of natural rights because these rights are also available to individuals by birth but their source does not lie or rest in god. Human rights are Paramount moral rights and legal acceptance is not important.

Characterstics of Human Rights

i) They are available to all human beings irrespective of place, religion, race, caste etc.
ii) They are basically moral in nature
iii) These rights are essential for human existence.
iv) They cannot be taken away from the individual.


1) Which rights are human rights is a subjective matter.
2) The Constitution of none of the moral state accept the notion of human rights.
3) In the name of human rights, certain countries, sometimes interfere in the internal affairs of other countries to fulfill their vested interests.

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1) Human rights are based on the notion of dignity of individual because it treats all individuals equally irrespective of its religion race, gender, caste, place of birth etc.
2) Human right has emerged as a very important tool against dictatorships.
3) The notion of human rights has reiemphasied the philosophy of rights and has made it a global issue.

Three Generation of Human Rights: The notion of three generations of human rights is basically related to development of human rights developed as civil and political rights. The emphasis in the first generation was on liberty. Individual was at the centre of rights and the purpose of rights was to liberate individuals from the grip of society and state. In the first generation, liberlism played very important role regarding rights.

In the second generation, human rights developed as social and economic rights. In the second generation, the emphasis of rights was on equality. Here also human rights were treated as rights of individuals but individual was located in the society. In the second generation, Socialism play an important role.

In the third generation certain new rights like environmental rights, right to peace etc formed the subject matter of human rights. In the third generation the guiding principle for rights is fraternity. In the third generation human rights belong to both individual and society as a collective whole. The source of third generation rights if free from any philosophical movement.

Duty is defined in limited as well as in winder sense. In limited sense duty is basically legal in nature. They are those obligations which a person is ought to do by law. By virtue of joining a job. But in philosophy duty is defined in a winder sense. In winder sense duty means what one should do and what one ought not to do. Therefore it is related to the principles of morality. In this sense duty may be compared with the spiritual freedom of Aurbindo and swadharmpalana of Bhagwat Gita According to Kant, duty means submission to the moral laws. Therefore according to him, duty lies in following the highest principle of morality. Highest principle of morality is to treat each individual as an end in itself.

Types of duties

1) Positive and Negatives duties Positive duties mean, what we ought to do. Negative duties are the one we ought not to do.

2) Perfect and Imperfect Duty Perfect duty allows no exception. These are duties towards particular individuals and there are corresponding rights. Imperfect duties may have exceptions because these are duties to 1 no one in particular so there are no corresponding rights.

3) Objective duty subjective duty.
Subjective duty is that which a person sincerely takes to be one’s duty. Objective duty is the actual duty one is supposed to perform. Sometimes there may be a conflict between objective and subjective duty. An individual right be concious about his duty but does’nt know what is his duty.

4) Legal and Moral duties.
Legal duty is duty under law violation of legal duty leads to punishment. Moral duty is moral in nature. As they are concerned their is no explicit punishment or reward. But society somehow judges the conduct of the individual in terms of censor or admiration.

Relationship between Rights and Duties

Rights are claims of entitlements of the individual towards state society and fellow individuals. Duty on the other hand is the obligation of the individual towards state society and its fellow beings. In other words, rights enable individuals to force others to do something or not to do something, whereas through duty the individual may be forced to do something or not to do something. Therefore on pure logical grounds and purely from the perspective of individuals rights is a gain, whereas duty is a loss. Therefore on the face they seem to be contradictory but actually they are not most of the philosophies believe that rights and duties are interrelated and complimentary to each other but there are certain minor differences. For example on the question of importance of rights over duties, liberalism believes that rights are more important but according to socialism and idealism duty is more important similarly towards whom duty is more important they differ. Duty towards individual is more important as pen liberals but according to socialism duty towards society and as per idealism duty towards state is more important.

Rights are meaningless without duties if the state or our fellow individuals do not perform their duties then our rights cannot be implemented. In the wards of Norman Wilde, “it is only in the world of duties were rights have significance”

Both rights and duties are essential for a good life and as better social order. A society where individuals are concerned but ignore their duty is not on ideal society similarly a balanced individual is one who knows his rights and performs his duties equally.

Both rights and duties are two faces of the same coin. They are substantially camp alimentary and the purpose is the same to create a balanced individual and a better social order. What we call right of one individual is the duty of other individual and vice-versa. The actual fulfillment of rights depends on the performs of duty.

Rights of the individual are implementer’s only if he performs his duties. This position has been accepted in most of the democratic states today including India.

According to Gandhiji, duties are everything a rights are not important. He believed that if all individuals perform their duties then each individual rights will also be fulfilled of the same coin. Therefore Gandhiji advised that we should perform our duties and rights will automatically come to us. In the ideal society of Gandhiji which he calls Ramrajya and which is a state of enlightened anarchy, individuals attain Swaraj which means, they are guided by their moral or highor self and not by the material self. Therefore they are more aware of their duties and in such a society no conflict can take place.


Accountability is a concept which is primarily related to the violation of one’s duty. It is by and large a legal concept which means if a person takes some obligation under law but cannot fulfill, he can be held accountable. Therefore accountability may further lead to punishment. In philosophical terms though legal notion of accountability is absent but society may judges our action in terms of censor and social bycott. In the context of state, the notion of accountability can be seen in the concept of responsible state. State must fulfill its obligation towards individuals or they may revolt. A democratic state based on constitutionalism is considered to be the best form of responsible state. In democratic systems also, parliamentary democracy accepts accountability and its core value. Monarchy, facism and Nazism are not considered as responsible states.

Accountability for individual may be limited and extended. In limited sense an individual can be held accountable only for those actions where he has violated law. In wider sense, individual can be held accountable both towards individual and society for all those action which is the requirement of Morality. Today in winder sense the notion of accountability is extended to environment and its various constituent like animals. As we talk of environment justice biomarality and animal rights but legally this is not possible though it can be judged in terms of censor. The native aspect of the notion of accountability is that ultimately state laws decide accountability. Therefore state may become very powerful.

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