People's Union for Civil Liberties

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People's Union for Civil Liberties

People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is a human rights body[1] formed in India in 1976 by Jayaprakash Narayan, as the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR).[2]


Indian emergency[edit]

Jayaprakash Narayan was a Gandhian leader in India after independence.[3] When Indira Gandhi was found guilty of violating electoral laws by the Allahabad High Court, Narayan called for her to resign, and advocated a program of social transformation. He asked the military and police to disregard unconstitutional and immoral orders. However, Janata Party opposition leaders and dissenting members of Indira Gandhi's party, Congress (I) were arrested, beginning The Emergency in 1975. Narayan was detained at Chandigarh, and when released in 1976, formed the PUCLDR to oppose the suppression of civil and political rights during the emergency.[3] The organization was thrown into disarray by his death and the election of the Janata party to power, which promised to enact the PUCL platform.[citation needed]

Narayan originally intended PUCL to be an organisation free from political ideologies, bringing those concerned about defending civil liberties and human rights from different backgrounds onto a common platform.[citation needed] According to the PUCL, the PUCLDR was a loosely organised group of people who were working with Narayan, a prominent figure in the Indian Opposition in the 1970s.[4]


After the return of Indira Gandhi to power in the 1980 elections in India, the organisation regained momentum[3] and was renamed as the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Its founding conference was held in November 1980.

As of 2019, the President of the PUCL is Ravi Kiran Jain, Senior counsel from Allahabad, and the General Secretary is V. Suresh.[5] Other notable office bearers include Dr. Binayak Sen, Sudha Bharadwaj and Kavita Shrivastava among others.[6]


The founding conference of the PUCL in November 1980, drafted and adopted the organization's constitution, making it a membership based organization.[7] The PUCL's constitution does not allow members of a political party to hold any office and hold membership in the PUCL; 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). The PUCL does not allow more than 10% of its members to be from the same political party.[7]

V. M. Tarkunde served as president and editor-politician. Arun Shourie served as general secretary. Y. P. Chhibbar was appointed as executive secretary. Those elected as president and general secretary have included V. M. Tarkunde, Rajni Kothari, Rajinder Sachar, K. G. Kannabiran, Arun Shourie, Y. P. Chhibbar, Arun Jaitley, Satish Jha, Dalip Swami, and others.

It publishes a monthly journal in English, the PUCL Bulletin, that was founded by Satish Jha, Arun Jaitley, Smitu Kothari and Neeraja Chowdhary and helped bring a large number of people to the fold of PUCL. PUCL also organises a JP Memorial Lecture on March 23 every year, the date on which the Indian State of Emergency was lifted in 1977.

It presents its Journalism for Human Rights' Award which carries a citation and an award of Rs 20,000. PUCL, as its policy, 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.

The PUCL supports grassroots movements that focus on organizing and empowering the poor rather than using state initiatives for change.

They have brought to light the cases of the bonded labourers, children in prison and violence committed against women undertrials.

The PUCL has worked on the issue of the hundreds of people detained by India and Pakistan's governments and accused of espionage after trivial crimes like minor trespassing, a problem linked to the tension caused by the Kashmir conflict.[8]

Charges against Dr Binayak Sen[edit]

Binayak Sen, who is the National Vice-President of the Union and General Secretary of its Chhattisgarh unit, was arrested in May 2007 by security agencies for his alleged links with Maoists. In 2010, Sen was convicted of sedition and several other offences under Indian Penal Code by Raipur Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh after finding him and two others, guilty of sedition for helping the Maoists in their fight against the state. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.[9] After his conviction, he was later released by the Supreme Court of India though the apex court said it was giving no reason for granting bail and left it to the satisfaction of the trial court concerned to impose the conditions for his release on bail.[10] His appeal against conviction is pending with the Chhattisgarh High Court.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Agrawal, Anoop; Shankar, Jay (4 May 2010). "Prosecutors Demand Death Sentence for Mumbai Gunman". Businessweek.
  2. ^ Naliyath, Sunil (2013-06-13). "Guardians of liberty". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  3. ^ a b c Donnelly, Jack; Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E.; Howard, Rhoda E. (1987-11-06). International handbook of human rights. ABC-CLIO. pp. 156–. ISBN 978-0-313-24788-0. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  4. ^ "PUCL History". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2007-03-29.
  5. ^ "Dr V. Suresh | PUCL". Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  6. ^ "Office Bearers | PUCL". Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  7. ^ a b "A Short History of PUCL". People's Union for Civil Liberties. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  8. ^ Your World: The Nowhere Man, Rupa Jha, October 21, 2012, BBC (retr 2012 10 20) (Program link:The Nowhere Man)
  9. ^ "Dr Binayak Sen found guilty of treason, gets life imprisonment". The Times of India. India. 25 December 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Times Now: SC grants bail to Binayak Sen – 15 Apr 2011". 15 April 2011. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2011.

External links[edit]