Earlier this week, we learned that the men accused of brutally raping and murdering a New Delhi woman were having a hard time finding legal representation. The case was seen as too volatile and potentially dangerous for many attorneys to consider taking on. Thankfully, two brave men stepped forward to represent the alleged rapists, who still deserve a safe and fair trial, no matter how much public anger and frustration they’ve stirred.
Now, one of those lawyers, Manohar Lal Sharma, says that the men were tortured by the police to extract confessions. And while some might wish for a little violent retribution for these men, here is why everyone should be furious if these charges of physical abuse by the police prove to be true.
The rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey was horrific. However, it wasn’t just the brutal nature of the crime that drew so much international attention. The case seemed to highlight the need for India to address a huge national problem, where women are not safe in their own country. The protests and activism that followed all centered around creating a legal system where rapists had to pay for their crimes, where rape and violence were no longer acceptable.
If these men really were tortured, which has not been proven, then there is a chance that they won’t have to pay for Pandey’s murder. Her family could see these men set free because their case was mishandled or they were treated unfairly. It would be one more tragic crime that saw no justice, no punishment.
What’s more, physical violence is not an acceptable punishment for anyone, no matter how disgusted we are by their crimes. Even when we’re angry and vengeful, we need to remember that more violence does not solve a problem. It turns these men into victims, and they shouldn’t get to play that role.
Two of our own commenters brilliantly explained how important a fair trial is, especially in these circumstances. Lastango wrote:
It is very important that the public perceive that the defendants received a fair trial, and that justice was done. Only then will a guilty verdict and commensurate sentences be broadly accepted as appropriate.
Exactly. Not only can there be no conviction without a trial and, thus, adequate representation for the accused – but even if there could, it’s important to demonstrate that due process is the right of all, no matter how overwhelming the evidence may appear to be.
Even though our emotional responses might be to throw these men to the wolves, or to lock them away without so much as a backward glance, the outrage this case has caused would be wasted by such actions. Sure, these six men would be gone, but it wouldn’t change the broader cultural and legal issues that allow thousands of rapes to occur in India every year. We need to see the judicial system appropriately and fairly bring these men to justice.