Union minister Babul Supriyo on Sunday said that stringent punishments were not a deterrent for criminals. Supriyo’s comments come in the backdrop of several people demanding the death penalty for four men who raped and murdered a 27-year-old Hyderabad veterinarian.

“I am convinced that no punishment, however stringent it may be, would act as a deterrent to stop such heinous crimes, even if it’s the death penalty, because such cannibals/animals will continue to exist in society with their sick belief that they can get away with it!” Supriyo tweeted.

However, many users chastised the minister and said he was making a case for not giving capital punishment to sexual offenders. Supriyo defended himself by saying that as a lawmaker he cannot say that “these animals” do not deserve a trial.

In an earlier tweet, the MP from Asansol had expressed shock over the incident. “Everytime I think of the rape & murder of the lady-vet, I wish I had the powers to burn the four culprits with my eyes” he had said. “I have two young daughters, the elder one is 20 and it’s the same everywhere in the world. Parents remain petrified if the girl is late in returning home at night,”

The incident took place on Wednesday when the woman left home around 5.50 pm to visit a dermatologist in Gachibowli. She parked her two-wheeler near Shamshabad toll plaza and took a shared cab from there around 6.15 pm. On her way home, the woman realised that the rear wheel of her vehicle was punctured. Around 9.15 pm, the four accused – identified as Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen, Mohammad Areef and Chintakunta Chennakesavulu – then approached her with offers to help.

According to the remand report accessed by NDTV, three of the accused forced the woman into a bush and raped her. They then smothered her to death, drove the body some distance away and set her on fire around 2.30 am.

Before being attacked, the woman called her sister for help. The family approached the police around 10 pm and were reportedly sent from one police station to another over jurisdictional matters. The police did not search areas where the vet was last seen, alleged her sister. Instead, they reportedly asked if the woman had a boyfriend and was in regular touch with men, and sought to know her phone habits. The family alleged that the police presumed that the woman had gone away with someone on her own. Three police officials have been suspended for delaying the registration of a first information report.

The accused were sent to judicial custody for 14 days on Saturday. The police are now thinking about filing a custody petition.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Sunday assured people that a fast-track court would hear the case. Rao’s comments came after protests were held across Hyderabad. As public figures arrived at the colony in Shamshabad on Sunday, angry residents locked its gates and held up placards that read: “No media, no police, no outsiders”, and “no sympathy, only action, justice”.