Meet Seema Kushwaha, the Lawyer Who Fought Alongside Nirbhaya’s Mother for 7 Years

Gender

Meet Seema Kushwaha, the Lawyer Who Fought Alongside Nirbhaya’s Mother for 7 Years

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

A long, painful, and frustrating wait for justice came to an end on the morning of March 20, when four convicted rapists were executed by hanging after a drawn out, seven-year legal battle. The conclusion of the Nirbhaya case – where a medical student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted on a moving bus – was closely watched by a public who had been horrified by its inciting incident in 2012.

Today, Asha Devi, the mother of the victim, heaved a sigh of relief. “I am feeling satisfied as my daughter got justice today,” she said. It’s finally closure for the medical student’s family, thanks to the tireless efforts of the prosecution lawyer Seema Kushwaha. She persisted in her quest for justice even in the face of discouraging stalling techniques and manipulation of the system by the defence lawyer. An emotional Kushwaha told the press after the execution, “I would be happier if she would have been able to save Nirbhaya’s life. However, I am satisfied that Nirbhaya has got justice.”

Kushwaha resolutely continued to fight the case on each occasion, having promised the victim’s parents that she would ensure that her daughter’s killers face justice.

Kushwaha is a young lawyer hailing from Etawa, Uttar Pradesh, who is now preparing for her civil services examination. She was still studying when decided to fight the Delhi gang rape case in 2013. Even before she took up the case in a legal capacity, Kushwaha would attend the protests and candle-light vigils that were taking place across the country in the wake of the heinous crime. The Nirbhaya case, the most talked-about rape case in the country, would become Kushwaha’s first. She graduated from Delhi University in 2014, but before that, in 2013, she had secured a death sentence for the rapists from the Saket Court.

Of course, it wasn’t so neatly done. The defence lawyer, AP Singh, tried every trick in the book to overturn the verdict, and then when that failed, to delay the execution. His stalling tactics were the reason the execution order was not carried out for seven years after the sentence was first passed in 2013, and upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2014, and the Supreme Court in 2020. Kushwaha resolutely continued to fight the case on each occasion, having promised the victim’s parents that she would ensure that her daughter’s killers face justice. Today, she also serves as a legal advisor for the Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, a charitable institute that helps women who have experienced violence.

After the execution was carried out today, defence lawyer AP Singh has landed in controversy once again for victim-shaming and making intolerant remarks against Nirbhaya. But on this day, an important one in India’s history of fighting gender violence, no mileage should be given to Singh’s ignorance. Men like Singh, with outdated misogynistic and patriarchal minds, are all too common in this country. It’s Seema Kushwaha, who fought not only a crowded, hard-to-navigate legal system but also a sexist society in the pursuit of justice for Nirbhaya, who needs to be celebrated.

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