When the death warrants were first issued by a Delhi court against four convicts in the December 16 gangrape case on January 7 last year, advocate Seema Kushwaha (36), the lawyer for the victim’s mother, couldn’t find space inside the packed courtroom. When she tried to move through the crowd, convict Mukesh’s lawyer M L Sharma got into an argument with her following which Kushwaha elbowed him. Sharma grew furious and said, “Just because she is a woman does not mean she can do anything.”
Kushwaha believes it is this aggression that helped her become a lawyer. “I’m a tough woman. As I come from a rural area, I channelled my aggression. In rural areas, female lawyers have faced tougher challenges,” she told The Indian Express.
When the incident took place in 2012, she was living at Mukherjee Nagar and preparing for the IAS. The case changed her life — she got in touch with the victim’s mother and eventually represented her during the hearing on the execution of death warrants at Patiala House Court. It was her first case. “Ten women had to leave the coaching centre as their fathers feared for their safety, but I did not,” she said.
Kushwaha’s father was a farmer who went on to become the pradhan of Uggarpur village in UP’s Etawah. Her mother never went to school.
Kushwaha said she was the first girl in her village, which had 53 houses, to pass Class IX: “My school was 3 km away. My father allowed me to finish school despite pressure from the village.”
She did a BA LLB degree from Kanpur University. In her first year, she took trains from Etawah to Kanpur as she did not tell her family she was studying law. She also did a Mass Communication course from an open university in UP and an MA in Political Science. She registered as a lawyer in 2006.
“I used to assist several senior lawyers while practicing in the Allahabad High Court. I also gave the Civil Judge exams, along with preparing for IAS… However, I exhausted my attempts and got involved with the parents of the December 16 victim. I knew that law was my calling.”
After the Supreme Court had rejected the review pleas of three convicts, Kushwaha found that the victim’s parents did not know about the status of the death warrants. She helped the victim’s mother draft an application for transfer of the case from a vacant court. On what comes next, she said: “I will now look at cases in rural areas which are stuck and revive them.”
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