Seema Kushwaha has been in the news a lot for the past few days. As the complainant’s lawyer in the infamous Nirbhaya gangrape case, she has been at the side of Asha Devi, mother of Nirbhaya gangrape victim, in every court appearance and press meets. It was the much-delayed execution of the four culprits in the case, who were sentenced to death in 2013, on March 20, 2020, that put Seema on the spotlight again.
Find out more about the 36-year-old Supreme Court lawyer, who has been leading the battle for bringing justice in one of the most heinous crimes India has witnessed.
Seema hails from Etawah district in Uttar Pradesh. The rural town, located on the bank of River Yamuna, still frowns upon women without ghoonghat but Seema was not one to adhere to such norms. Although her father was a farmer and mother was illiterate, they supported Seema’s education, and she was the first girl in her village to finish school.
Seema is a BA-LLB graduate from Kanpur University, which is about three hours from her hometown. Reportedly, she used to take trains from Etawah to Kanpur, instead of staying at Kanpur, because her family was unaware that she was studying law. Registering as a lawyer in 2006, she later did MA in Political Science too. Seema had also prepared for civil services examination, but has exhausted her number of attempts.
Seema was pursuing master degree in Indira Gandhi Open University when the gang-rape happened. She used to participate in vigils for Nirbhaya victim as a student, and was closely following the case since then. It was after graduating in 2014 that she became Asha Devi’s lawyer officially.
Complainant’s lawyers are allowed by law to assist the public prosecutor. In Nirbhaya case, Seema was assisting Dayan Krishnan, the special prosecutor decided by the then-government for this controversial case, in 2012. Although the role entails spotting investigative pitfalls, there were no such issues in this case – which was investigated by the then-DCP (South Delhi) Chhaya Sharma.
Although women lawyers in India often tend to focus on civil cases and family-related crime (like domestic violence and dowry harassment), Seema focuses on criminal cases. She has said that coming from a rural area has helped her toughen up and channel her aggression into the courtroom. She has said that she will be representing the victim’s family in Purnia, where an eight-year-old girl was gangraped and murdered in December 2019.
AP Singh, the Defense lawyer in Nirbhaya case, had managed to stall the case for seven years by approaching Intentional Court of Justice (ICJ) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against death sentence. Singh’s misogynistic remarks and even him questioning the deceased’s character provoked protests, but Seema chose to maintain her dignified silence. However, she was relentless in following up on the case delays and holding up the death sentence for the convicts.
Reportedly, Seema provided her services free of cost for the Nirbhaya case. Besides, she is also a legal advisor at the NGO established by the Nirbhaya victim’s family – Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, which helps women who have experienced violence to find shelter and legal assistance.