People's Union for Civil Liberties
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is a human rights body formed in India in 1976 by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, as the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR).
Jayaprakash Narayan was a Gandhian leader in India after independence. When Indira Gandhi was found guilty of violating electoral laws by the Allahabad High Court, Narayan called for Indira 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 her party, Congress (I) were arrested, beginning The Emergency. Narayan was detained at Chandigarh, and when released in 1976, formed the PUCL to oppose the suppression of civil and political rights during the emergency. 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.
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. 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.
After the return of Indira Gandhi to power in the 1980 elections in India, the organisation regained momentum and was renamed as the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Its founding conference was held in November 1980.
The founding conference of the PUCL in November 1980, drafted and adopted the organization's constitution, making it a membership based organization. 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.
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 it 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 government and accused of espionage after trivial crimes like minor tresspassing, a problem linked to the tension caused by the Kashmir conflict.
False Charges against Dr Binayak Sen
In 2010, Binayak Sen who is the National Vice-President of the Union and General Secretary of its Chhattisgarh unit, was convicted of sedition 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. He was arrested in May 2007, by security agencies for his alleged links with Maoists however, he was later released by the Supreme Court of India, India's apex court on bail wherein the court stated that "“Your main charge is that Dr. Sen met Sanyal 33 times in jail in 11 months and some materials on Maoist ideology were found in his possession. How can it be said that such possession would attract the charge of sedition?”, and has been out on bail ever since.
- Agrawal, Anoop; Shankar, Jay (4 May 2010). "Prosecutors Demand Death Sentence for Mumbai Gunman". Businessweek.
- 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.
- PUCL History
- "A Short History of PUCL". People's Union for Civil Liberties. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- Your World: The Nowhere Man, Rupa Jha, October 21, 2012, BBC (retr 2012 10 20) (Program link:The Nowhere Man)
- "Dr Binayak Sen found guilty of treason, gets life imprisonment". The Times of India (India). 25 December 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
- "Binayak Sen gets bail in Supreme Court". The Hindu (India). 15 December 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2013.