“Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty”
Human rights violations are not just stray or accidental incidents of police brutality or state excess; rather they have become widespread, systemic, and institutionalized. 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. The PUCL does not simply react. Our primary functions are
1. To increase consciousness about and commitment to human rights and civil liberties among all sections of our people
2. To provide a platform for all groups including political parties to come together for furthering the cause of human rights
3. To energise and creatively use existing institutions like the courts and the press, so that they may become more sensitive to the human rights situation in India; and
4. To intervene directly in cases where gross violations of human rights take place
We organise seminars, Lectures, etc., to focus attention on the problems concerning its area of work. We have raised our voice against various oppression laws and retrograde amendments to the Constitution. We have tried to find the causes of communal riots and create amity amongst various sections of society. We also organise observer teams at the time of Elections from sensitive constituencies. We have been active on environmental issues, especially for the rights of those affected adversely by 'development' projects. In addition, we also take up public interest litigations at our own expense.
We are the guardians of the nation’s conscience, and over the past 30 years, we have worked tirelessly to protect the powerless and help create a truly democratic and just society.
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 means such as public meetings, etc.
Many reports are published as separate documents also.
Filing petitions, on the basis of these investigations, 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 maintains relations with International Organisations concerned with Human Rights, a few of whom are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, World Organization Against Torture, Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, The UN Centre for Human Rights, LAWASIA, ARTICLE 19, Asian Human Rights Commission
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 an 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.