[Guest Post] The need for Human Rights

The post has been contributed by Prof. N.K. Gupta. He has over three decades of experience in training and mentoring law students. He has supervised several LLM and PhD candidates.  He retired as a Professor at Department of Laws, Himachal Pradesh University in 2016 and also served as Guest faculty in various other colleges in Shimla. His forte is Labour and Industrial laws, IPRs and Banking laws.


We often read in newspapers about human rights violations. Every society to some extent violates human rights. Human rights are linked with human dignity. Whenever anyone violates the dignity of anyone, he or she violates the human rights.

First of all, it is essential to know what is meant by human rights.

Different thinkers have given different definitions to the expression “human rights”. In India, the first statutory definition of this expression is under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. According to Section 2(d) of the Act, “human rights” means the rights relating to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India. The emphasis is on the enforceability. This does not appear to be a correct approach.

The Apex Court in Minerva Mills v. UOI [AIR 1980 SC 1789] has held that “the Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III and IV. To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the  harmony of   the Constitution.”

Article 37 of the Constitution of India reads – “The provisions contained in this Part shall not be enforceable by any court, but the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws.” Thus, both enforceable and unenforceable rights are equally important.

Next thing which is relevant is why human rights are needed?

  • The first reason is that human beings need human rights for their dignity. The difference between human beings and other animals is that human beings need human dignity to live. There was a time when there was slavery. A slave had life without dignity. His existence was like an animal because slave did not have any dignity. He was also known as right less person.
  • The second reason why human rights are required is that all-round development of human beings is possible with human rights. Great thinkers are of the view that there cannot be all-round development of the personality of human beings without human rights.
  • The next reason is the empowerment of people. The powerless people can be empowered by conferring rights. For example, The Right to Information Act, 2005 enables any person to seek information from public authorities and empowered him.

Therefore, the above reasons make human rights “inherent, inalienable and universal”.

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L&P Editorial Team

The Law & Practice Blog's editorial team.

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