Difference between human rights, fundamental rights & legal rights

9 Feb 2023  Read 15408 Views

If we ask you do you have a right to adequate housing? We presume an answer of yes, but if you are deprived of such a right, where will you go for redressal? This can be a point of discussion. The first thing you must figure out here is whether the right to adequate housing is a fundamental right, a constitutional right or a human right. So, the right to adequate housing is not explicitly considered a human right; the Indian courts have interpreted this right as part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

So, to deal with such issues, let’s first understand the difference between human rights, legal rights, constitutional rights and fundamental rights and what to do if these rights are violated in this article. So, let’s get started.

Difference between fundamental, legal, constitutional & human rights


Fundamental Rights

Legal Rights

Constitutional Rights

Human Rights


Protected and guaranteed by the Indian Constitution & they are country specific

Protected and enforced by an ordinary law of our country.

Protected and guaranteed by the Indian Constitution

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists these fundamental human rights that are internationally protected.


Changes can be done only by amending the Constitution. Fundamental rights can be said to be a subset of general human rights

It may be changed by the legislature through an ordinary process of law-making.

Changes can be done only by amending the Constitution.

Human rights laws (part of customary international law) became part of Indian municipal laws via Constitution & Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 which needs to be amended to bring any changes.

Basic structure

Part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Not a part of the Basic structure of the Constitution

Part of the basic structure of the Constitution

Only a few human rights, though, were protected as Fundamental Rights.


Individuals cannot waive an FR.

It can be waived off by an individual.

E.x- Contracts

One cannot waive any constitutional right

Cannot be waived off


In case of violation, an individual can move to Supreme Court or High Court. In fact, the remedy to move to SC in such a case is in itself a fundamental right. (Art. 32)

In cases of violation, an individual will have to move to an ordinary court first

In cases of violation, an individual can move directly to Supreme Court.

In cases of violation, SC can be approached under Art. 32 as Indian constitution shield human rights in the form of guaranteed fundamental rights. 


These rights are mainly against the state, but a few are also enforceable against both individuals & state  like untouchability or prohibition of beggar

These rights impose a corresponding obligation on the individual or states in few cases. 

These rights are enforced by the court of justice.

These rights are enforced by the United Nations Organization

What do you mean by Human Rights?

Human rights, as the name suggests, are the universal rights vested in each & every individual, unlike fundamental rights vested only in the citizens. The concept of human rights is based on the principle of human solidarity, and non-violence set for all the other rights mentioned in our Indian Constitution. The universal rights that any human being should possess are human rights. 

Many constitutional provisions, such as the fundamental rights, are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights charter (UDHR), and this declaration describes human rights as the “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.”

Here are a few universal human rights:

  • The right to education and to reap the rewards of freedom of culture and scientific advancement.

  • The freedom to operate on equal & favourable terms.

  • The right to social security, to an acceptable standard of living, and the best attainable physical and mental well-being levels, etc.

Let’s list some of the human rights enshrined under our Indian Constitution.

  • The right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

  • The right to life, liberty, and personal security.

  • Freedom from torture and degrading treatment.

  • The right to equality before the law.

  • The right to a fair trial.

  • The right to privacy.

  • Freedom of belief and religion.

  • Freedom of opinion.

  • Right of peaceful assembly and association.

  • The right to participate in government.

  • The right to social security.

  • The right to work.

  • The right to an adequate standard of living.

  • The right to education.

  • The right to health.

  • The right to food and housing.

What do you mean by Constitutional Rights?

Constitutional rights are the rights mentioned under the Indian Constitution that are conferred upon the citizens; however, remember one thing these constitutional rights are different from the fundamental rights mentioned under Part III of the Constitution. If, in case, any law is contradictory to constitutional rights; then the law will be declared null and void. Also, constitutional rights do not apply to every citizen, unlike fundamental rights. 

One prime example is the Right to Vote guaranteed under article 326 or the right to property under article 300A. The right to vote is applicable only after 18 years of age. Constitutional rights can be created and can be interpreted by law on case to case basis. A constitutional right can be taken away from the citizens by the “authority of law” meaning when the legislators pass an act taking away the right to property or any other constitutional right of a citizen, the act will be held legally valid. 

What do you mean by Fundamental Rights?

The fundamental rights are the inalienable rights granted to each Indian citizen enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution, however, in some exceptional cases to non-citizens too. There are 6 Fundamental Rights namely:- a) Right to Equality b) Right to Freedom c) Right against Exploitation d) Right to Freedom of Religion e) Cultural and Educational Rights f) Right to Constitutional Remedies

Why these rights are called the fundamental rights? It is for two reasons:

  1. They are mentioned in the Constitution. 

  2. They are justifiable that is, they are enforceable by courts. An individual may approach a court of law in case of a breach.

What do you mean by Legal Rights?

Legal rights are those rights that are recognised by the state through its statutes. These are the rights formulated within a government’s legal structure & are vested upon the people of that specific state as privileges. Briefly, the freedoms granted to people by their respective governments are legal rights. These freedoms or rights are thus established and upheld by the government’s legal framework & these rights are not universal, differing from state to state, country to country, time to time etc. These are privileges protected under the ordinary statute, but by amending the law, they can be changed or revoked by the legislature.

Legal rights are basically the rights whose source is derived from a law, not the Constitution. For example: The right to ownership of property, right to patent, etc.  It is not possible to waive a constitutional right but a person may waive an ordinary legal right.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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