NCERT Textbook - Rights Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

NCERT Textbooks (Class 6 to Class 12)

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Rights Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Chapter 5
Rights
In everyday life we often talk of our rights. As members of a democratic country we
may speak of such rights as the right to vote, the right to form political parties, the
right to contest elections and so on. But apart from the generally accepted political
and civil rights, people today are also making new demands for rights such as the
right to information, right to clean air or the right to safe drinking water. Rights are
claimed not only in relation to our political and public lives but also in relation to
our social and personal relationships. Moreover, rights may be claimed not only for
adult human beings but also for children, unborn foetuses, and even animals. The
notion of rights is thus invoked in a variety of different ways by different people. In
this chapter we will explore:
o What do we mean when we speak of rights?
o What is the basis on which rights are claimed?
o What purpose do rights serve and, why are they so important?
Overview
2020-21
Page 2


Chapter 5
Rights
In everyday life we often talk of our rights. As members of a democratic country we
may speak of such rights as the right to vote, the right to form political parties, the
right to contest elections and so on. But apart from the generally accepted political
and civil rights, people today are also making new demands for rights such as the
right to information, right to clean air or the right to safe drinking water. Rights are
claimed not only in relation to our political and public lives but also in relation to
our social and personal relationships. Moreover, rights may be claimed not only for
adult human beings but also for children, unborn foetuses, and even animals. The
notion of rights is thus invoked in a variety of different ways by different people. In
this chapter we will explore:
o What do we mean when we speak of rights?
o What is the basis on which rights are claimed?
o What purpose do rights serve and, why are they so important?
Overview
2020-21
Rights
Rights
68
Political Theory
5.1 WHAT ARE RIGHTS?
A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes
what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human
beings. It is something that we consider to be due to us; something
that the rest of society must recognise as being a legitimate claim
that must be upheld. This does not mean that everything that I regard
to be necessary and desirable is a right. I may want to wear the
clothes of my choice to school rather than the prescribed uniform. I
may want to stay out late at night but this does not mean that I have
a right to dress in any way I like at school or to return home when I
choose to do so. There is a distinction between what I want and
think I am entitled to, and what can be designated as rights.
Rights are primarily those claims that I along with others regard
to be necessary for leading a life of respect and dignity. In fact, one
of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they
represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-
respect and dignity. For example, the right to livelihood may be
considered necessary for leading a life of dignity. Being gainfully
employed gives a person economic independence and thus is central
for his/her dignity.  Having our basic needs met gives us freedom
to pursue our talents and interests. Or, take the right to express
ourselves freely.  This right gives us the opportunity to be creative
and original, whether it be in writing, or dance, or music, or any
other creative activity. But freedom of expression is also important
for democratic government since it allows for the free expression of
beliefs and opinions. Rights such as the right to a livelihood, or
freedom of expression, would be important for all human beings
who live in society and they are described as universal in nature.
Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they
are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop
their talents and skills. A right like the right to education, for
instance, helps to develop our capacity to reason, gives us useful
skills and enables us to make informed choices in life. It is in this
sense that education can be designated as a universal right. However,
if an activity is injurious to our health and well-being it cannot be
2020-21
Page 3


Chapter 5
Rights
In everyday life we often talk of our rights. As members of a democratic country we
may speak of such rights as the right to vote, the right to form political parties, the
right to contest elections and so on. But apart from the generally accepted political
and civil rights, people today are also making new demands for rights such as the
right to information, right to clean air or the right to safe drinking water. Rights are
claimed not only in relation to our political and public lives but also in relation to
our social and personal relationships. Moreover, rights may be claimed not only for
adult human beings but also for children, unborn foetuses, and even animals. The
notion of rights is thus invoked in a variety of different ways by different people. In
this chapter we will explore:
o What do we mean when we speak of rights?
o What is the basis on which rights are claimed?
o What purpose do rights serve and, why are they so important?
Overview
2020-21
Rights
Rights
68
Political Theory
5.1 WHAT ARE RIGHTS?
A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes
what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human
beings. It is something that we consider to be due to us; something
that the rest of society must recognise as being a legitimate claim
that must be upheld. This does not mean that everything that I regard
to be necessary and desirable is a right. I may want to wear the
clothes of my choice to school rather than the prescribed uniform. I
may want to stay out late at night but this does not mean that I have
a right to dress in any way I like at school or to return home when I
choose to do so. There is a distinction between what I want and
think I am entitled to, and what can be designated as rights.
Rights are primarily those claims that I along with others regard
to be necessary for leading a life of respect and dignity. In fact, one
of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they
represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-
respect and dignity. For example, the right to livelihood may be
considered necessary for leading a life of dignity. Being gainfully
employed gives a person economic independence and thus is central
for his/her dignity.  Having our basic needs met gives us freedom
to pursue our talents and interests. Or, take the right to express
ourselves freely.  This right gives us the opportunity to be creative
and original, whether it be in writing, or dance, or music, or any
other creative activity. But freedom of expression is also important
for democratic government since it allows for the free expression of
beliefs and opinions. Rights such as the right to a livelihood, or
freedom of expression, would be important for all human beings
who live in society and they are described as universal in nature.
Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they
are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop
their talents and skills. A right like the right to education, for
instance, helps to develop our capacity to reason, gives us useful
skills and enables us to make informed choices in life. It is in this
sense that education can be designated as a universal right. However,
if an activity is injurious to our health and well-being it cannot be
2020-21
Rights
Rights
Political Theory
69
claimed as a right. For instance, since medical research
has shown that prohibited drugs are injurious to one’s
health and since they affect our relations with others,
we cannot insist that we have a right to inhale or inject
drugs or smoke tobacco. In the case of smoking it may
even be injurious to the health of people who may be
around the smoker. Drugs may not only injure our
health but they may also sometimes change our
behaviour patterns and make us a danger to other
people. In terms of our definition of rights, smoking or
taking banned drugs cannot be claimed as a right.
5.2 WHERE DO RIGHTS COME FROM?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political theorists
argued that rights are given to us by nature or God. The rights of
men were derived from natural law. This meant that rights were
not conferred by a ruler or a society, rather we are born with them.
As such these rights are inalienable and no one can take these
away from us. They identified three natural rights of man: the right
to life, liberty and property. All other rights were said to be derived
from these basic rights. The idea that we are born with certain
rights, is a very powerful notion because it implies that no state or
organisation should take away what has been given by the law of
nature. This conception of natural rights has been used widely to
oppose the exercise of arbitrary power by states and governments
and to safeguard individual freedom.
In recent years, the term human rights is being used more than
the term natural rights. This is because the idea of there being a
natural law, or a set of norms that are laid down for us by nature,
or God, appears unacceptable today. Rights are increasingly seen
as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in
order to lead a minimally good life.
The assumption behind human rights is that all persons are
entitled to certain things simply because they are human beings.
As a human being each person is unique and equally valuable. This
means that all persons are equal and no one is born to serve others.
Go through recent
newspapers and
make a list of people’s
movements that have
made proposals for
new kinds of rights?
LET’S DO IT
Do
2020-21
Page 4


Chapter 5
Rights
In everyday life we often talk of our rights. As members of a democratic country we
may speak of such rights as the right to vote, the right to form political parties, the
right to contest elections and so on. But apart from the generally accepted political
and civil rights, people today are also making new demands for rights such as the
right to information, right to clean air or the right to safe drinking water. Rights are
claimed not only in relation to our political and public lives but also in relation to
our social and personal relationships. Moreover, rights may be claimed not only for
adult human beings but also for children, unborn foetuses, and even animals. The
notion of rights is thus invoked in a variety of different ways by different people. In
this chapter we will explore:
o What do we mean when we speak of rights?
o What is the basis on which rights are claimed?
o What purpose do rights serve and, why are they so important?
Overview
2020-21
Rights
Rights
68
Political Theory
5.1 WHAT ARE RIGHTS?
A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes
what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human
beings. It is something that we consider to be due to us; something
that the rest of society must recognise as being a legitimate claim
that must be upheld. This does not mean that everything that I regard
to be necessary and desirable is a right. I may want to wear the
clothes of my choice to school rather than the prescribed uniform. I
may want to stay out late at night but this does not mean that I have
a right to dress in any way I like at school or to return home when I
choose to do so. There is a distinction between what I want and
think I am entitled to, and what can be designated as rights.
Rights are primarily those claims that I along with others regard
to be necessary for leading a life of respect and dignity. In fact, one
of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they
represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-
respect and dignity. For example, the right to livelihood may be
considered necessary for leading a life of dignity. Being gainfully
employed gives a person economic independence and thus is central
for his/her dignity.  Having our basic needs met gives us freedom
to pursue our talents and interests. Or, take the right to express
ourselves freely.  This right gives us the opportunity to be creative
and original, whether it be in writing, or dance, or music, or any
other creative activity. But freedom of expression is also important
for democratic government since it allows for the free expression of
beliefs and opinions. Rights such as the right to a livelihood, or
freedom of expression, would be important for all human beings
who live in society and they are described as universal in nature.
Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they
are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop
their talents and skills. A right like the right to education, for
instance, helps to develop our capacity to reason, gives us useful
skills and enables us to make informed choices in life. It is in this
sense that education can be designated as a universal right. However,
if an activity is injurious to our health and well-being it cannot be
2020-21
Rights
Rights
Political Theory
69
claimed as a right. For instance, since medical research
has shown that prohibited drugs are injurious to one’s
health and since they affect our relations with others,
we cannot insist that we have a right to inhale or inject
drugs or smoke tobacco. In the case of smoking it may
even be injurious to the health of people who may be
around the smoker. Drugs may not only injure our
health but they may also sometimes change our
behaviour patterns and make us a danger to other
people. In terms of our definition of rights, smoking or
taking banned drugs cannot be claimed as a right.
5.2 WHERE DO RIGHTS COME FROM?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political theorists
argued that rights are given to us by nature or God. The rights of
men were derived from natural law. This meant that rights were
not conferred by a ruler or a society, rather we are born with them.
As such these rights are inalienable and no one can take these
away from us. They identified three natural rights of man: the right
to life, liberty and property. All other rights were said to be derived
from these basic rights. The idea that we are born with certain
rights, is a very powerful notion because it implies that no state or
organisation should take away what has been given by the law of
nature. This conception of natural rights has been used widely to
oppose the exercise of arbitrary power by states and governments
and to safeguard individual freedom.
In recent years, the term human rights is being used more than
the term natural rights. This is because the idea of there being a
natural law, or a set of norms that are laid down for us by nature,
or God, appears unacceptable today. Rights are increasingly seen
as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in
order to lead a minimally good life.
The assumption behind human rights is that all persons are
entitled to certain things simply because they are human beings.
As a human being each person is unique and equally valuable. This
means that all persons are equal and no one is born to serve others.
Go through recent
newspapers and
make a list of people’s
movements that have
made proposals for
new kinds of rights?
LET’S DO IT
Do
2020-21
Rights
Rights
70
Political Theory
Each of us possesses an intrinsic
value, hence we must have equal
opportunities to be free and realise
our full potential. This conception of
a free and equal self is increasingly
being used to challenge existing
inequalities based on race, caste,
religion and gender. Today, the UN
Universal Declaration of Human
Rights builds upon this understanding
of rights and it attempts to recognise
those claims that the world
community collectively sees as being
important for leading a life of dignity
and self-respect.
The notion of universal human
rights has been used by oppressed
people all over the world to
challenge laws which segregate
them and deny them equal
opportunities and rights. In fact, it
is through the struggles of groups
that have felt excluded that the
interpretation of existing rights has
sometimes been altered. Slavery
has, for instance, been abolished,
but there are other struggles that
have only had a limited success.
Even today there are communities
struggling to define humanity in a
way which includes them.
The list of human rights which
people have claimed has expanded
over the years as societies face
new threats and challenges. For
instance, we are very conscious
    KANT ON HUMAN DIGNITY
“ ... everything has either a price or a
dignity. What has a price is such that
something else can also be put in its place
as its equivalent; by contrast, that which
is elevated above all price, and admits of
no equivalent, has a dignity.
‘Human beings’, unlike all other
objects, possess dignity. They are, for this
reason valuable in themselves. For the
eighteenth century German philosopher,
Immanuel Kant, this simple idea had a deep
meaning. It meant that every person has
dignity and ought to be so treated by virtue
of being a human being. A person may be
uneducated, poor or powerless. He may
even be dishonest or immoral. Yet, he
remains a human being and deserves to be
given some minimum dignity.
For Kant, to treat people with dignity
was to treat them morally. This idea became
a rallying point for those struggling against
social hierarchies and for human rights.
Kant’s views represent, what is called,
the moral conception of rights. This
position rests upon two arguments. First,
we should be treating others as we would
like to be treated ourselves.  Second, we
should make sure that we don’t treat the
other person as means to our ends. We
should not treat people as we treat a pen,
a car, or a horse. That is, we should respect
people not because they are useful to us
but because they are, after all, human
beings.
2020-21
Page 5


Chapter 5
Rights
In everyday life we often talk of our rights. As members of a democratic country we
may speak of such rights as the right to vote, the right to form political parties, the
right to contest elections and so on. But apart from the generally accepted political
and civil rights, people today are also making new demands for rights such as the
right to information, right to clean air or the right to safe drinking water. Rights are
claimed not only in relation to our political and public lives but also in relation to
our social and personal relationships. Moreover, rights may be claimed not only for
adult human beings but also for children, unborn foetuses, and even animals. The
notion of rights is thus invoked in a variety of different ways by different people. In
this chapter we will explore:
o What do we mean when we speak of rights?
o What is the basis on which rights are claimed?
o What purpose do rights serve and, why are they so important?
Overview
2020-21
Rights
Rights
68
Political Theory
5.1 WHAT ARE RIGHTS?
A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes
what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human
beings. It is something that we consider to be due to us; something
that the rest of society must recognise as being a legitimate claim
that must be upheld. This does not mean that everything that I regard
to be necessary and desirable is a right. I may want to wear the
clothes of my choice to school rather than the prescribed uniform. I
may want to stay out late at night but this does not mean that I have
a right to dress in any way I like at school or to return home when I
choose to do so. There is a distinction between what I want and
think I am entitled to, and what can be designated as rights.
Rights are primarily those claims that I along with others regard
to be necessary for leading a life of respect and dignity. In fact, one
of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they
represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-
respect and dignity. For example, the right to livelihood may be
considered necessary for leading a life of dignity. Being gainfully
employed gives a person economic independence and thus is central
for his/her dignity.  Having our basic needs met gives us freedom
to pursue our talents and interests. Or, take the right to express
ourselves freely.  This right gives us the opportunity to be creative
and original, whether it be in writing, or dance, or music, or any
other creative activity. But freedom of expression is also important
for democratic government since it allows for the free expression of
beliefs and opinions. Rights such as the right to a livelihood, or
freedom of expression, would be important for all human beings
who live in society and they are described as universal in nature.
Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they
are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop
their talents and skills. A right like the right to education, for
instance, helps to develop our capacity to reason, gives us useful
skills and enables us to make informed choices in life. It is in this
sense that education can be designated as a universal right. However,
if an activity is injurious to our health and well-being it cannot be
2020-21
Rights
Rights
Political Theory
69
claimed as a right. For instance, since medical research
has shown that prohibited drugs are injurious to one’s
health and since they affect our relations with others,
we cannot insist that we have a right to inhale or inject
drugs or smoke tobacco. In the case of smoking it may
even be injurious to the health of people who may be
around the smoker. Drugs may not only injure our
health but they may also sometimes change our
behaviour patterns and make us a danger to other
people. In terms of our definition of rights, smoking or
taking banned drugs cannot be claimed as a right.
5.2 WHERE DO RIGHTS COME FROM?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political theorists
argued that rights are given to us by nature or God. The rights of
men were derived from natural law. This meant that rights were
not conferred by a ruler or a society, rather we are born with them.
As such these rights are inalienable and no one can take these
away from us. They identified three natural rights of man: the right
to life, liberty and property. All other rights were said to be derived
from these basic rights. The idea that we are born with certain
rights, is a very powerful notion because it implies that no state or
organisation should take away what has been given by the law of
nature. This conception of natural rights has been used widely to
oppose the exercise of arbitrary power by states and governments
and to safeguard individual freedom.
In recent years, the term human rights is being used more than
the term natural rights. This is because the idea of there being a
natural law, or a set of norms that are laid down for us by nature,
or God, appears unacceptable today. Rights are increasingly seen
as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in
order to lead a minimally good life.
The assumption behind human rights is that all persons are
entitled to certain things simply because they are human beings.
As a human being each person is unique and equally valuable. This
means that all persons are equal and no one is born to serve others.
Go through recent
newspapers and
make a list of people’s
movements that have
made proposals for
new kinds of rights?
LET’S DO IT
Do
2020-21
Rights
Rights
70
Political Theory
Each of us possesses an intrinsic
value, hence we must have equal
opportunities to be free and realise
our full potential. This conception of
a free and equal self is increasingly
being used to challenge existing
inequalities based on race, caste,
religion and gender. Today, the UN
Universal Declaration of Human
Rights builds upon this understanding
of rights and it attempts to recognise
those claims that the world
community collectively sees as being
important for leading a life of dignity
and self-respect.
The notion of universal human
rights has been used by oppressed
people all over the world to
challenge laws which segregate
them and deny them equal
opportunities and rights. In fact, it
is through the struggles of groups
that have felt excluded that the
interpretation of existing rights has
sometimes been altered. Slavery
has, for instance, been abolished,
but there are other struggles that
have only had a limited success.
Even today there are communities
struggling to define humanity in a
way which includes them.
The list of human rights which
people have claimed has expanded
over the years as societies face
new threats and challenges. For
instance, we are very conscious
    KANT ON HUMAN DIGNITY
“ ... everything has either a price or a
dignity. What has a price is such that
something else can also be put in its place
as its equivalent; by contrast, that which
is elevated above all price, and admits of
no equivalent, has a dignity.
‘Human beings’, unlike all other
objects, possess dignity. They are, for this
reason valuable in themselves. For the
eighteenth century German philosopher,
Immanuel Kant, this simple idea had a deep
meaning. It meant that every person has
dignity and ought to be so treated by virtue
of being a human being. A person may be
uneducated, poor or powerless. He may
even be dishonest or immoral. Yet, he
remains a human being and deserves to be
given some minimum dignity.
For Kant, to treat people with dignity
was to treat them morally. This idea became
a rallying point for those struggling against
social hierarchies and for human rights.
Kant’s views represent, what is called,
the moral conception of rights. This
position rests upon two arguments. First,
we should be treating others as we would
like to be treated ourselves.  Second, we
should make sure that we don’t treat the
other person as means to our ends. We
should not treat people as we treat a pen,
a car, or a horse. That is, we should respect
people not because they are useful to us
but because they are, after all, human
beings.
2020-21
Rights
Rights
Political Theory
71
today of the need to protect
the natural environment
and this has generated
demands for rights to clean
air, water, sustainable
development, and the like.
A new awareness about the
changes which many
people, especially women,
children or the sick, face in
times of war or natural
crisis has also led to
demands for a right to
livelihood, rights of children
and the like. Such claims
express a sense of moral
outrage about infringements
of peoples’ dignity and they
also act as a rallying call to
people to try and extend rights to all human beings. We should not
understate the extent and power of such claims. They often invoke
wide support. You may have heard about the pop star Bob Geldof ’s
recent appeal to western governments to end poverty in Africa and
seen T.V. reports about the scale of support which he received from
ordinary people.
5.3 LEGAL RIGHTS AND THE STATE
While claims for human rights appeal to our moral self, the degree of
success of such appeals depends on a number of factors, most
important of which is the support of governments and the law. This
is why so much importance is placed on the legal recognition of rights.
A Bill of Rights is enshrined in the constitutions of many
countries. Constitutions represent the highest law of the land and
so constitutional recognition of certain rights gives them a primary
importance. In our country we call them Fundamental Rights. Other
laws and policies are supposed to respect the rights granted in the
Constitution. The rights mentioned in the Constitution would be
2020-21
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