Delhi Region Bans Uber After Driver Is Accused of Rape

Delhi Region Bans Uber After Driver Is Accused of Rape

Cab driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, accused of raping a woman, outside a court in New Delhi on Monday. (Reuters)

New Delhi:  The Delhi region's Transport Department has banned Uber, the popular hail-a-ride service, after one of its drivers appeared in court Monday on suspicion of raping a passenger, who dozed off during a ride home only to discover that the driver had taken her to a secluded spot and climbed into the back of the vehicle.

The driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, had previously been detained for seven months on suspicion of raping another female passenger in a similar situation in 2011, said Madhur Verma, the deputy commissioner of the police for the northern district of New Delhi. After that trial had begun, Yadav reached a settlement with the woman and was acquitted on grounds of lack of evidence, The Times of India reported.

The authorities had initially said Yadav had no criminal record.

Uber, which allows customers to summon a cab via a smartphone app, is based in the United States. It started operating in New Delhi last December and caught on rapidly among young people in the capital, where finding safe, affordable transportation after dark is especially difficult for women.

The police have said that Uber did not carry out background checks on Yadav or properly register his residential address, and had not registered his vehicle as a cab or installed a global positioning system in the vehicle, which is mandatory for commercial taxis.

A news release from the Delhi Transport Department said that the driver held an "all-India tourist permit," which did not allow him to carry local fares in Delhi, and that Uber therefore had violated the Motor Vehicle Act of 1988, which regulates taxi permits. The government has also "blacklisted" Uber from providing transportation in the capital region in the future.

Uber immediately suspended the driver's operating permit and pledged to assist the police in the investigation. The company's chief operating executive, Travis Kalanick, suggested that the authorities in Delhi bore some responsibility, saying that Uber "will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs." He said Uber would try to use technological advances "to help make New Delhi a safer city for women."

"What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific," Kalanick said in a statement released shortly before Yadav appeared in court. "Our entire team's hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime. We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and support the victim and her family in her recovery."

The woman, who is in her late 20s and works at a finance company, was returning from New Delhi to her home in nearby Gurgaon on Friday night when she awoke after the driver had changed his route, taking her to a secluded area. He then parked and raped her, she told the police Saturday morning.

Verma, the police investigator, said a physical examination showed signs of a "fierce sexual assault and rape." The police said the woman took a photograph of the cab, including its license plate, using the camera on her mobile phone, which she provided to the police.

Verma told The Indian Express, a daily newspaper, that he was unable to find any contact number or email address for Uber on its web pages and finally located its headquarters by booking an Uber cab and asking to be taken to the company's head office, which turned out to be several rooms in a hotel. He said he was not able to receive any information about Friday's bookings for five hours because the database was located in New York.

The woman's allegation is strikingly similar to another made in 2011, when Yadav allegedly picked up a 22-year-old woman for a ride home after she finished her shift at a bar in a mall in Gurgaon. The passenger later told the police that he had diverted from the route and assaulted her.

Yadav, 32, was arrested Sunday evening in a raid in his native region, around 90 miles southeast of New Delhi. Indian news stations have reported that he has confessed to the crime.

© 2014, The New York Times News Service

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