Difference Between Rights and Responsibilities (with Table)

We have all seen people do the common mistake and might have done it ourselves too as to confuse between the terms rights and responsibilities. You see, both of these terms are very important in the legal sector, and not only there, anybody who would want to have an educated conversation or a properly structured debate, would and should know the debate between rights and responsibilities. 

When we talk about rights, we talk about societal rules, regulations, and norms that are allowed to the citizens and residents of a country, state, or the immediate politically governed area which is owed to them by the legal system, the local governing body.

Again, when we talk about responsibilities, we talk about the commitment of a citizen or the person living in the political area to the society, the legal system, and the governing body of that place.

Rights vs Responsibilities

The difference between Rights and Responsibilities is their formation. Rights are formed for a specific group of people, whereas responsibilities are for the valid group. The rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, but the Rights are earned, and the Responsibilities are followed. A right can cause a legal conflict, while responsibility does not.

Comparison Table between Rights and Responsibilities

Parameters of ComparisonRightsResponsibilities
Owed byThe legal body/ Governing bodyThe citizens/ residents of a particular politically bound area
Enjoyed byThe citizensThe society at large
Legal ConflictCan be subject to legal conflict/ challenged at court.Usually not subject to many conflicts.
NatureCan change based on collective societal opinion.Stays static generally.
Application DemographicAt times, some rights are applied to specific groups only.Responsibilities are applicable to the whole population. Some rare exceptions might be present.

What are Rights?

Rights are the benefits and the allowances that a certain governing body owes to the citizens, residents, and the people whom they govern. Usually, these rights are found to exist in democracies, and in such cases, they are protected by the constitution. Any change which has to be brought about has to be challenged in the court, and if the court decided to rule in favor of the case, only then does the right change. 

Rights can be broken into several categories in several ways, the most common ones being natural rights or the rights which no human ever created or can change. This includes the right to life. The right to life tells us that each human has the right to life, and it is a criminal offense if anybody takes this right of another person away.

Similarly, there are legal rights, which are defined in the constitution. The constitution might also take the liberty to assign various punishments to the violation of rights, and this includes the violation of natural rights. 

Then, another characteristic of rights is that they can be applicable for selective groups too. A very well known example is the prevalent system of reservation system of seats in educational institutions, government jobs for people belonging to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other backward classes. The main reason to do so is that they have been historically oppressed and hence, enjoy this right so as to excel and come at par with the mainstream society.

However, we can not write a paragraph about rights and not talk about fundamental rights. The fundamental rights are the rights that are guaranteed by every democratic constitution to every citizen bound by it. They usually vary from country to country, but mostly contain rights such as the right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to property, right to constitutional remedies, etc. Fundamental rights are always valid but can be suspended when the nation is in a state of emergency.

What are Responsibilities?

Responsibilities are the civil duties that each citizen is supposed to fulfill. It is believed that these responsibilities help make the country a peaceful and suitable place to live in. Rights and responsibilities are often complementary and one is the derivation of the other. Take it in this way, the constitution gives the citizens the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, in return, the citizens have the responsibility of supporting and defending the constitution. 

If we have a proper look, then we see that one can not stand without the other. If the constitution did not grant the rights of freedom to the citizens, it would end up in an unsatisfied and unhappy society, which would eventually descend into anarchy, hence there is the right to freedom. Now that the constitution has given the citizens this right, the citizens strive to maintain the constitution, as its collapse would result in a state of anarchy again.

Thus rights and responsibilities, even though significantly different, are necessary and complementary to each other. They are opposite sides of the same coin.

However, the main beneficiary of these responsibilities is society at large. Nobody is above the law and hence when anybody serves the constitution, they do not serve any single individual or any group of individuals. They support the people who made this constitution, the people. This is especially prevalent in democracies. This is why the quote by Abraham Lincoln, ‘Democracy is of, by and for the people’.

Main Differences between Rights and Responsibilities

  1. The main difference between rights and responsibilities is that rights are owed by the governing body to the people and responsibilities are owed by the people to the society or country.
  2. Rights are enjoyed by the citizens, whereas the benefits of responsibilities are enjoyed by the population in general.
  3. Rights can be subject to legal conflict, whereas responsibilities aren’t so usually.
  4. Rights can be changed if society feels it is wrong or undeserved. Responsibilities, however, face no such problems usually.
  5. Rights can be exclusive to specific groups. Responsibilities are valid mostly throughout the demographic.

Conclusion

Rights and responsibilities are two very important necessities for the proper functioning of society. As stated earlier, they both are complementary to each other and essentially are two sides of the same coin.

Rights ensure that the individual citizen gets equality, opportunity and is at the same footing as everyone else and lives a happy life, and responsibilities make sure society is maintained in order and nothing descends into chaos. Perfect synchronization of both of these leads to a harmonious society.

References

  1. https://www.selfstudys.com/uploads/pdf/b63nUKSdVbxUWZGxiA6m.pdf
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1751-5823.2002.tb00336.x