Most democracies today begin by drawing up a charter of political rights.
Political rights give to the citizens the right to equality before law and the right to participate in the political process. They include such rights as the right to vote and elect representatives, the right to contest elections, the right to form political parties or join them.
Political rights are supplemented by civil liberties.
Civil Liberties refers to the right to a free and fair trial, the right to express one’s views freely, the right to protest and express dissent.
Collectively, civil liberties and political rights form the basis of a democratic system of government. Rights aim to protect the well-being of the individual. Political rights contribute to it by making the government accountable to the people, by giving greater importance to the concerns of the individual over that of the rulers and by ensuring that all persons have an opportunity to influence the decisions of the government.
However, our rights of political participation can only be exercised fully when our basic needs, of food, shelter, clothing, health, are met. For a person living on the pavements and struggling to meet these basic needs, political rights by themselves have little value. They require certain facilities like an adequate wage to meet their basic needs and reasonable conditions of work. Hence democratic societies are beginning to recognise these obligations and providing economic rights. In some countries, citizens, particularly those with low incomes, receive housing and medical facilities from the state; in others, unemployed persons receive a certain minimum wage so that they can meet their basic needs. In India the government has recently introduced a rural employment guarantee scheme, among other measures to help the poor.
Today, in addition to political and economic rights more and more democracies are recognising the cultural claims of their citizens. The right to have primary education in one’s mother tongue, the right to establish institutions for teaching one’s language and culture, are today recognised as being necessary for leading a good life. The list of rights has thus steadily increased in democracies. While some rights, primarily the right to life, liberty, equal treatment, and the right to political participation are seen as basic rights that must receive priority, other conditions that are necessary for leading a decent life, are being recognised as justified claims or rights.
Bibliography : NCERT – Political Theory