NEW DELHI -- In the court of public opinion, the men being tried in the gang rape of an Indian university student should be hanged in a public square.
That demand for swift justice might make it impossible for them to get a fair trial in a court of law. Already, there are plenty of portents.
Amid the heightened emotions that have surrounded this case, a local bar association has stopped its members from representing the men, citing the heinous nature of the crime. The three grandstanding lawyers who have rushed in to represent the accused spent weeks taking potshots at each other instead of co-ordinating a defence. Two lawyers fought for days over which one was representing one of the defendants.
And the case is being heard by a brand new fast-track court, set up in the wake of the rape to deal with sexual assaults in the capital. Finally, whatever is said or submitted in court has to stay in the room -- a gag order by the judge prevents the media from reporting anything about the case.
"However wicked and depraved society may perceive a person to be, he deserves a fair trial. He deserves a good defence," said Markandey Katju, a retired judge of India's Supreme Court.
The specifics of the gang rape are horrifying. According to the police report, the attack lasted at least 45 minutes. There were six attackers, one of whom claims to be a juvenile and is being tried separately.
Each of the men raped the 23-year-old woman, with at least two taking turns driving the bus.
-- The Associated Press