Rights of the weak, duties of the powerful

News: Rights and duties of the citizens are correlative to each other, which means that rights have real meaning if individuals perform duties.

What is the relationship between rights and duties?

Rights and duties are complementary. If a person has a right to something, it necessarily implies that someone else has a corresponding duty. For example, If a person has a right to free speech, then it is the duty of the state to prevent its infringement. So, people are rights as well as duties bearing individuals.

How do one pit duties against rights?

The framework of rights and duties should be grounded in an egalitarian setup. In a deeply hierarchical inegalitarian society, only a few people have rights. For example, In patriarchal families, the father alone has the right to make decisions.

Similarly, a hierarchical caste system distributes rights and duties unequally. Any infringement of rights of an upper-caste brings heavy penalties to the lower caste.
In monarchies, the King has absolute unrestricted rights. Those at the bottom have a maximum number of duties.

It is revealed that in egalitarian societies people with power have rights while those without it have duties. Equality of duty and rights can be insured when there is equal distribution of power.

Read here: A false conflation between duties and rights
Can duties be beyond rights?

The importance of duty as a moral discourse cannot be denied. Duties that do not oppose rights, in fact, go beyond them. For example, a Doctor guided by a moral sense of duty would go beyond prescribing medicines and interact with the patient and the family to provide a sense of assurance. A society that has people who take virtue-based, solidarity-infused duties seriously is much better than where duties are not valued.

Duties are not antagonistic to rights. They are moral and non-justifiable. Many such duties are mentioned in the Indian constitution –
1) To preserve composite culture  2) Not destroyed natural environment  3) Develop scientific temper  4) Safeguard public property  5) Protect India’s sovereignty and integrity.

Though these duties are not legally enforceable, they impose an obligation on all citizens to go beyond the call of rights-based duties.

Read here: Co-relation between fundamental rights and duties of citizens

Source: This post is based on the article “Rights of the weak, duties of the powerful” published in The Hindu on 9th February 2022.

Print Friendly and PDF