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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Inde: La justice à un tournant

by Lina Sankari

India: Justice at a crossroads

Translated Friday 11 January 2013, by Chrysanthie Therapontos and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The trial of the alleged rapists opened Thursday. Given the massive demonstrations against violence against women, the authorities react.

Popular pressure has undoubtedly forced the authorities to move quickly. For the first time in the history of India, a special court to deal with cases related to crimes against women has opened in Saket (South Delhi), to try five of the six rapists that caused the death of a twenty-three-year-old physiotherapy student, last Saturday (see l’Humanité of December 31).The sixth suspect will go before a juvenile court if the bone tests confirm that he is under eighteen years. Yesterday, even as the trial opened, demonstrations continued all over the country, demanding that justice be done.

But since the discovery of the crime, the debates that run through Indian society, faced with its violence, have taken a disturbing turn. In addition to demonstrators seeking a tougher legislation, there are those who demand public stoning or application of the death penalty. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Minister of the Interior, based on a police report of a thousand pages and thirty testimonies, fully agreed with that approach: “We have strong evidence and, given the atrocity of the crime, the police will ask for the death penalty.” The magistrates have two audio testimonies of the student, scientific reports, forensic evidence, videos taken in the bus of the crime scene, and an eye witness.

2500 lawyers refused to defend the accused rapists

Charged with murder, kidnapping and rape, the alleged perpetrators have already suffered the slings and arrows of 2500 lawyers who refused to defend them. “We decided that no lawyer will defend those accused of rape, because it would be immoral to defend the case," said Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and member of the Bar of Saket. Indian media revealed that the alleged perpetrators have also attempted to assassinate the young woman by driving over her. The bus driver who took part in the rape, for his part, attempted to clean the car and burn the clothes of the student.

In addition to this trial, which is expected to last one month, people denounce the lack of security and suspect certain politicians. Accused of attempted rape, a leader of the Congress Party was beaten by villagers in the state of Assam, before being taken to the police yesterday. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of India should receive a petition requesting ineligibility as punishment for such an offence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already assured that the legislation will be reviewed, and a bill should be tabled in Parliament in February. It is now even more than vitally urgent for the subcontinent where some elected officials do not hesitate to consider that 90% of rapes are consensual.

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