Our History

Human rights violations are not just stray or accidental incidents of police brutality or state excess; rather they have become widespread, systemic, and institutionalised. In such a climate, the need of the hour is for citizens to unite and reclaim their power to protest, to defend, and to oppose any actions that attack their fundamental human rights.

PUCL is the largest human rights organisation in the country, striving to defend civil liberties and human rights of all members of society.

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.
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.
In November 1980, a National Convention of civil rights workers converted the People’s Union for Civil Liberties into a membership organisation. The National Convention elected Mr. V.M. Tarkunde as President and Mr. Arun Shourie as the General Secretary of PUCL. Since then the PUCL has undertaken work on several fronts-from commencing work towards preparing a new Prisons Act and Jail Manual under the leadership of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer to agitating on specific issues like the release of trade unionists arrested under the National Security Act in Madhya Pradesh. Most of the effort has been devoted to setting up State and Local Units which alone can effectively pursue specific issues.
Foundational Declaration of PUCL and a Message by Jayprakash Narayan