The dispute over who would represent the defendant was only resolved Thursday — the day the trial started. Sharma dropped out of the trial, saying he feared his client would be tortured to get him to change his lawyer. Anand replaced him.
Sharma has accused police of beating all five men to extract their confessions, then later amended that to say only his client was beaten. He also made unsubstantiated accusations that the victim’s male friend was somehow responsible for the deadly assault, only to backtrack later.
Another lawyer, A.P. Singh, said the only reason he agreed to represent two of the accused was because their families had begged his mother for help.
‘‘My mother has a kind heart and an order from her is like an order from God,’’ he said, posing dramatically for the cameras.
Anand hasn’t spoken about his strategy, but both Sharma and Singh have claimed at least once that their clients were not even on the bus during the attack.
In the past, courts across the country have criticized the police for coercing confessions and even planting evidence to get convictions.
‘‘We set so little store by how the police functions in this country. There’s no reason to accept the police’s version of events in this case without thorough legal scrutiny,’’ said Jawahar Raja, a lawyer and activist.
The defense is made even more complicated by the fact the case is being tried in a fast track court. As a result the police has put together its case at rapid speed. The trial has started even as defense lawyers are falling into place.
‘‘Justice takes some time. It’s all very easy to talk about fast track courts,’’ said Katju, adding that cases should be tried quickly and efficiently but without a looming deadline.
‘‘A judge has to read all the documents, hear the lawyers, apply his mind. It’s not a magic lamp that with a swish you can dispose of a case.’’