People's Union for Civil Liberties

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About PUCL

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is India’s largest human rights organisation. Formed in 1976 by Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Kripalani, Krishna Kant, Justice Tarkunde and others, PUCL has been in the forefront in defending civil liberties and human rights across India. PUCL has launched a range of activities to ensure that the State and its agencies, especially the police, are accountable as for example in issues of encounter deaths, in challenging police impunity in custodial violence and death cases and in ensuring justice for victims of caste, communal and state engineered violence and against phone tapping. Apart from these cases PUCL’s efforts led to major changes in election laws relating to disclosure of assets and criminal antecedents of election candidates, NOTA and in the passage of the Right to Food Security Act, 2013. Former Presidents of PUCL have included Justice Tarkunde, Prof. Rajni Kothari, Justice Rajinder Sachar and KG Kannabiran. Former General Secretaries include Prof. Chibber, Rajni Kothari, Dalip Swamy, Arun Shourie and Pushkar Raj. Presently Prof. Prabhakar Sinha is the President and Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary of PUCL.

Major areas of activity

Ever since 1980, the organisation has been expanding its membership and has established branches in all most all the states of India. Some of them have been good at mobilising public opinion through public demonstrations, while others have more successfully pursued public interest litigation in the courts. Their area of interest varies according to the interests and capacities of the elected office bearers and active members.

The major areas of action have been:

mobilising public opinion in favour of a better climate for protection of civil liberties in the country. conducting investigations into incidents of violations of human rights, brought to notice by the victims, the press, a member, or any concerned individual. publishing the findings of these investigations in the PUCL Bulletin and releasing them to the press, or making them public by other mean such as public meetings, etc. Many reports are published as separate documents also. filing petitions, on the basis of these investigation, or even otherwise. These cases are prepared and argued by our lawyer members in the local courts, High Courts, or the Supreme Court. They meet all the expenses of fighting these cases, from their own pocket. The PUCL does not simply react. It organises seminars, Lectures, etc., for focusing attention on the problems concerning its area of work. It has raised its voice against various oppression laws and retrograde amendments to the Constitution. It has tried to find the causes of communal riots and tried to create amity amongst various sections of society. It also organises observer teams at the time of Elections from sensitive constituencies. It has been active on environmental issues, especially for the rights of those affected adversely by &;development&; projects. It has, from time to time, taken up issues to courts at various levels. The PUCL has, more than once, taken up the cause of pavement dwellers.

PUCL Bulletin:

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 January 2008 issue of the &;Bulletin was its 310th issue. The Chief Editor is Y.P. Chhibbar and the Editor is R. M. Pal. Smitu Kothari, George Mathew, and Dalip S. Swami have served as its editors in the past. Others who have made valuable contribution to nurture the &;Bulletin are Neeraja Chawdhury, Arun Jaitly, Aurobindo Ghose, Meera, Sehjo Singh, Vijaylaxmi, N. Kotishwar Singh,Pushkar Raj, and, above all, late Inder Mohan.

Fraternal relations

The PUCL maintains fraternal relations with many national and international organisations concerned with Human Rights and exchanges literature with them. Some of the important international organisations are The Amnesty International, The World Organisation against Torture, The Human Rights Watch, The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, The UN Centre for Human Rights, The Lawasia, The Article 19, The Asian Human Rights Commission, and others. The National groups with which the PUCL maintains very close, friendly, and co-operative relations are CFD, APCLC, PUDR, APDR, CPDR, as well as a host of others. Since the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission the PUCL has made a lot of effort in utilising this forum for redressal of grievances against violation of the rights of the people. But the PUCL is dissatisfied by its scope and the methods laid down in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and also with the workings of the National Human Rights Commission. It is continuously pressurising the government as well as the Commission to remedy the situation. Besides the NHRC, the PUCL also keeps in touch with the National Commission for Women, the National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis. Some States have established State Human Rights Commissions, as provided in the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. The PUCL is campaigning for its establishment in the remaining States also. The PUCL also takes care to see that the establishment of such Constitutional fora does not slow down its work, as there is no substitute of voluntary and dedicated work.

Representation at other fora

Other national/international organisations, conferences, etc., invite PUCL or its activists to participate in some special meeting or seminar, etc. Participation in such events sometimes is not only necessary but also crucial to project accurately PUCLs policies on concerned matters. Individual invitations do not concern the organisation. But if an individual/activist is invited to portray the policy of the PUCL, such invitations for a national or international meet should come to the national office. It is the responsibility of the President/General Secretary to depute an appropriate member to attend such a meet. If a member is invited in individual capacity, she/he can voice her/his individual views only. This practice is a part of the organisational ethics and discipline. For such a Conference confined to a State it is the responsibility of the State President/General Secretary to see that the practice is adhered to.

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