People’s Union for Civil Liberties PUCL

Linked with Binayak Sen – India.

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. (full text).

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A short history: 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. (full text).

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