A duty is an obligation to do or not to do something for the sake of others. It is something we owe to others as social beings. As we have to live together in the society, we are bound to do something or refrain from doing something for the good of others or for the sake of their happiness and welfare. Duties imply do’s or don’ts. Citizenship is more concerned with duties than with rights of the individual, because citizenship is the realization of the truth that, as members of a community, we share together all the benefits and advantages of social life and common good. He or she who is conscious of the common good and performs his or her duties regarding it is a good citizen.
Relation between Rights and Duties
It is a popular but a mistaken idea that rights and duties are unrelated, that the two are independent of each other, that an individual can enjoy rights without performing duties, and that a man may be burdened with duties Without possessing any rights. Such ideas are quite wrong and fallacious. Rights and duties are so much interdependent that they might be regarded as the two sides of one and the same coin.
Firstly, rights imply duties. Where there is a right, there is a duty as well. Rights and duties are two ends of the social relation between two or more individuals. When I claim that I have a right to something, I also impose a duty on all other persons to enable me to enjoy this right. They are bound by a duty not to interfere in or deprive me of the enjoyment of my right, for example, to my house. Thus there is a relation between me and all other individuals through the house or book, etc., one end of which is my right and the other end is the duty of others. My right is your duty, and your right is my duty. Every right implies a corresponding duty or obligation.
If other persons do not accept their duty, my right will at once vanish altogether. Thus rights and duties go together. There can be no right without a corresponding duty or duty without a corresponding right, any more than there can be a husband without a wife, or a father without a child.
Rights imply duties in still another sense. A right is something for one’s own benefit; and a duty is to do something for the benefit of others. I cannot claim something for my own good without being equally ready to do some other thing for the good of others. When I claim that I have a right to live in my house, I have also the duty to let others live in the same manner in their houses. A society, in which one man claims rights but has no duties, is a society of masters and slaves and not of moral beings. It is not a society at all but an organised oppression. This is another reason why rights and duties go together. Hence, my rights imply my duties. “Do unto others as you wish to be (done by” is the primary and basic rule of society and morality. I can enjoy my rights only if I respect the rights of others. If I want to develop my personality, I must enable others also to do the same.
Furthermore, rights and duties are correlative. This correlation is through functions. A right is claimed to do or enjoy some thing which is a socially useful or necessary function. Every right has a function attached to it. Mere enjoyment of a right without the performance of the function attached to it is an empty claim and an anti-social behaviour. When a person has enjoyed a right, he has the duty to perform its function also. For instance, every citizen has a right to education.
But when he has acquired education or training, he must be ready to contribute his share to the social good for which he has educated or trained himself. This is his duty. State or society has given me my rights so that I may contribute my share or fulfil my duty towards the common good. Otherwise I have no right to enjoy my right. That is the reason why Laski says, “He that will not perform functions cannot enjoy rights any more than he who will not work ought to enjoy bread.”