December 2, 2020

Correlation between Rights and Duties in Jurisprudence

Let’s start with defining Legal Rights and Duties

Legal Right – These are the rights which are conferred by the law of the land to the people.

Salmond defines rights as “A right or an interest recognised and protected by a rule of right. It is a right, respect for which is a duty and disregard of which is a wrong.” Rights are an indispensible unit in a society. It is something which you do or abstain yourself from doing in order to favour some other person’s right.

Legal Duty – It is termed as an obligation which arises out of some law. These are the responsibilities which ask us to act according to law. Correlation of rights and duties has always been a debatable topic. There are different theories propounded by different scholars.

The two most important views regarding whether the rights and duties are correlated or not are Salmond’s view and Austin’s view.

According to Salmond “no right can exist without any corresponding duty and vice versa.” He believed that every duty which is being performed is in respect of a correlated right attached to it.

On the Contrary what austin has to say is that all the types of duties are not similar and they are divided between relative and absolute duty. Relative duties are the one which have corresponding rights whereas Absolute duties are the one which are independent and have no rights correlated to them. For example, not to commit suicide, is one of your absolute duty, there is no corrosponding right here.

According to Austin there are a bunch of duties which fall under absolute duties. Such as duties to self, duties to sovereign etc. These are certain duties which are to be followed and have no corresponding relations with rights. But austin’s view has been criticized a lot lately. Salmond has concluded that duties towards self becomes part of criminal law and thus becomes legal duty and duties to sovereign/state are always corresponding to the rights which are granted to us by the states.

And The most accepted view regarding rights and duties over the time is that they are necessarily correlative. They are the two most inevitable components existing together in present day society.

  • As we can describe a right as a power or privilege conferred by law which people enjoy and on the other hand duty is a burden imposed by law which commands obligeance for the good of society. And in order to enjoy a right properly there is a need for other people to consider and respect it. Hence in this way we can say that enjoyment of right by one person grants duty on another person to respect it. Thus they work in corollary. They act as two phases of a single coin. For example if the state has guaranteed right to life, the
  • Rights act as an interest and legal rights become legal interests and these legal interests are backed by law and in this case a duty is imparted on law to protect these rights.
  • The state guarantees certain rights to all of its individuals to promote welfare of the society and protection of such rights is the state’s duty. Also when state is guaranteeing rights it becomes a corresponding duty of the citizens to respect the state and do not create hindrance in the functioning of state. It becomes an individual’s duty to serve the state in his whole capacity.

Thus in different forms Rights and Duties are correlated. To define the correlativity, Professor Laski has created a four fold connection between Rights and Duties.

1) My rights implies your duty

Individuals have their rights given to them and these rights involve corresponding duties from others. For instance, if I have the right to life then every other individual is duty bound to protect my life. Another example is that I have the right to live in a safe and clean environment and every other person has a duty to respect that right of me.

2) My right imply my duty to admit a similar Right of others

The way others are duty bound to respect and protect my rights. I am also duty bound to do the same for others because others also have the same rights.

3) Rights should be exercised to promote better good

The way of exercising my rights should be in a way that it does not violate the laws and conventions of the society. Thus it becomes the duty of an individual towards the entire society. For example my right to practice religion freely cannot be used by me to incite communal hatred.

4) State has guaranteed us rights, so we have duty towards state too

The individuals are ultimately under the duty to protect and respect the interests of the state as the state is the agency which has provided all the rights to the individuals.

Thus from the entire analysis that we have done in this article we can conclusively say that both rights and duties always go hand in hand and it is impossible to exist in a society where they cannot coexist. Thus, correlation of rights and duties is a very important for holistic and entire development in any society


Author Details: Pragya Dixit

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

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