A short history of PUCL

Also see, PUCL Formed | PUCL Constitution in Hindi

Know PUCL - 2010

India: People's Union for Civil Liberties -- By Pushkar Raj

Website of People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)

Veteren leader Jaya Prakash Narayan (JP) founded the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR), in 1976. The idea was to make the PUCLDR. An organisation free from political ideologies, so that people belonging to various political parties may come together on one platform for the defence of Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

A national seminar was held on October 17, 1976. It was inaugurated by Acharya JB Kripalani. The PUCLDR was a loosely organised group of people who were working with JP. V M Tarkunde was elected President and Krishna Kant General Secretary. The Emergency was lifted in 1977.

The Janata Party, formed with blessings of JP, came to power. A very large number of people who had worked with him assumed power at the centre and an impression started floating that now the liberties of the people were secure. The dynamic element in the PUCLDR subsided. Jaya Prakash Narayan died on October 8, 1979, after a prolonged kidney problem. The year 1980 saw the return of Indira Gandhi to power. A consensus emerged among civil liberties activists and various political parties that such an organisation should remain non-partisan. The organisation was re-christened as the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The founding conference, held in November 1980, drafted and adopted the Constitution of the PUCL and made it a membership based organisation, aiming to have branches all over the country. The Constitution laid down that the members of a political party will not have the right to hold any office if they joined the organisation; the number of members, belonging to political parties, in the national or state executive committees shall not be more than 50% of the members of the National Council and the National Executive Committee respectively (and also the corresponding bodies at the state and local level). Not more than 10% shall be members of any single political party.

This founding conference elected V M Tarkunde as its President and Arun Shourie as the General Secretary. Later, Y P Chhibbar was appointed as Executive Secretary. Those elected as President and General secretary (ies) in the following years(s) were: President: VM Tarkunde (1982 to 1984); Rajni Kothari (1984 to 1986); Rajindar Sachar (1986 to 1995); K G Kannabiran (1995, continuing). General Secretary: ArunShourie (1982 to 1986); Rajni Kothari (1982 to 1984); Y P Chhibbar (1984, continuing); Dalip Swami (1986 to 1990). V M Tarkunde was named Advisor in 1986. The PUCL also publishes a monthly journal, the PUCL Bulletin, in English. It is the only journal of its kind in the country and is read all over the world in the human rights circles. The November 1999 issue of the Bulletin was its 212th issue.

The PUCL also organises a JP Memorial Lecture on March 23rd every year. This is the date on which the Emergency was lifted. In the same function the PUCL presents its Journalism for Human Rights' Award which carries a citation and an award of Rs.20,000/- This Award was instituted in 1980 to enthuse interest in civil liberties and human rights amongst journalists and also to bring to light the dedication and the work of those working in this field.

As a matter of policy, the PUCL does not accept money from any funding agency, Indian or foreign. All the expenses are met by the members, the office bearers, and the activists.