He was educated in Cotton Collegiate School, Guwahati and Presidency College, Calcutta. Later, he moved to the Bar from Inner Temple in London. He distinguished himself as a lawyer and also served as Lecturer in Earle Law College in Guwahati. Phookan was a prominent member of the Assam Association which was the only political organisation in Assam till 1920.
He was a prominent member of a political organization then named Assam Association till 1920. Phookan played a important part in forming the Assam Branch of the Indian National Congress in 1921. He was elected its first President. When the Non-Cooperation Movement was started, Phookan took a leading part in it and he toured various parts of Assam carrying the message of Mahatma Gandhi. In connection with the Non-Cooperation Movement, he was sentenced to one year's rigorous imprisonment in 1921 .
Phookan became the Chairman of the Reception Committee,Pandu Session of the Indian National Congress in 1926. He also served as Chairman of the Municipal Board and Local Board of Guwahati and undertook several programmes for the upliftment of the under-privileged sections of society. He established a Leper Asylum in Guahati. He was a great orator and also a prominent writer. He served as the President of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, a premier literary organisation in Assam at its Goalpara Session in 1927. He also served as President of the Assam Chhatra Sammelan in 1928.
In 1921, Assam Provincial Congress Committee (APCC) was formed with its headquarter at Guwahati and Kuladhar Chaliha as its president. Tarun Ram Phookan became the president. The reconstituted APCC elected Phookan, Gopinath Bordoloi, Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Chandranath Sarmah, Krishna Nath Sarmah and Kanak Chandra Sarmah as the members of the AICC. This new committee initiated and invited Gandhiji to Assam in 1921 to propagate the message of non-co-operation amongst the masses. Gandhi's visit gave tremendous impetus to the congress workers to carry out the non-cooperation movement and implement the principles of Swadeshi.