Theories of Human Rights


Every citizen belonging to their respective countries enjoy some rights that protect their virtues, under support of law, like the Fundamental Rights enjoyed by every citizen of India. Similar to this, and on a much larger scale, human beings all over the world are entitled to some basic rights and freedoms, lasting from birth to death, irrespective of any conditions of class, creed, gender, social/economic position, place of birth. These rights are independent from legal boundaries of the countries and are applicable on the shared values of independence, equality and respect deserved by every human being. Human rights are protected under an exclusive set of laws which cannot be denied to any human being. However, in exceptional circumstances, restrictions of these rights can be made functional.

To understand this vast concept henceforth, various theories on human rights come to view. These theories provide and discuss the various perspectives attached to the concept, utility and application of human rights all over the world.


“Human Rights are rights inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”


Human rights are divided into two kinds primarily: (1) civil and political rights & (2) social and economic rights.

  • CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS: Usually protect the individual from state power without any intervention into their lives which means that the person can live free within society and participate in public spheres.
  • SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS: Every person is afforded the condition under which they are able to meet their basic needs, closely related to the person’s well being. The state must take the necessary steps to fulfill every citizen’s basic needs.

These are the basic rights that are therefore necessarily applicable irrespective of where ever and however the person is living.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948) can be stated herein to understand the concept of human rights and its related theories in a more accurate manner, as per the United Nations.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”


  • INTEREST THEORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS: The Interest theory was propounded by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a utilitarian, stated the importance of moral rights in legal systems, being highly critical of it at the same time. According to his ideals, a person could be considered to vote if someone ratified it with legal rules and regulations.

Joseph Raz, a recent interest theorist, initiated, however,

“X has a right if and only if X can have rights, and other things being equal, an aspect of X’s well-being (his interest) is a sufficient reason for holding some other person(s) to be under a duty.” -From this point of view, it can be understood how recent philosophers considered this theory to be the “benefit theory” stating that basic moral duties respecting others’ essential interests, such life and liberty, serve as the basis of moral rights.

  • WILL THEORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS: The will theory was given by H.L. Hart (1907-1992), where he cited the importance of human freedom or liberty. He mainly focused on the freedom of every person, which means that freedom and well being are the two necessary conditions for a rationally purposive agent in the first place. They are the essential prerequisites for a human being, were to be human is to possess the capacity for rationally purposive action. However, each individual is entitled to have access to them.

However, both these theories faced their shortcomings too, on basis of limiting interests and third party interests in the Interest Theory and lack of non-transferable rights and the cognitive abilities of the right holders in the Will Theory respectively.

THE MARXIST THEORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS can also be considered, where it was believed that property is the basis for coming into existence of law and state, but the argument on this is that neither law nor state existed in primitive society as there was no concept of private property. Therefore it can be rightfully said that the Marxist theory views human rights from a perspective very different from others.

SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDIA WITH ACCORDANCE TO THESE THEORIES: India provided all the kinds of human rights to its citizens initially. However, after the 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, after the case of Keshavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala, the Right to Property was omitted to be granted to the citizens any further.


Thus, as per the above discussion, it is easily observable how Human Rights are necessary and useful for every individual all over the world- not only does it is a means to fight discrimination, but also for ensuring justice for every individual, on a personal level, with support of the law. However, that does not mean that human rights be used by people for harmful purposes, or for fulfilling any motive antagonistic towards the welfare of any state or place whatsoever, henceforth, perhaps giving rise to the various exceptions that are made as per need. In totality, herein, the Human Rights are important and unavoidable for, when considered from Rabindranath Tagore’s mindset, these rights to freedom are as essential a fearless mind backed up by law, so necessary in today’s world

This article is authored by Dishant Arya, Fifth-Year, B.A. LL.B student at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

Also Read – The Right to Reproductive Health – An Analysis of Applicable International Human Rights Obligations

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