THE taxi-booking service Uber was banned yesterday from operating in the Indian capital, New Delhi, after a woman accused one of its drivers of raping her.
The announcement was made as the 32-year-old suspect appeared in a New Delhi court.
The court ordered that Shiv Kumar Yadav be held for three days for police questioning over allegations that he raped the finance company employee after being hired to ferry her home from a dinner engagement on Friday night. The court also ordered Yadav’s cellphone to be confiscated.
The case, which has come almost two years after a young woman was fatally gang raped on a bus in the capital, has renewed national anger over sexual violence in India.
The government rushed through legislation last year to double prison terms for rape to 20 years and to criminalise voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. But activists say much more needs to be done, including better education for youths and the addition of basic infrastructure such as street lights.
The chief executive of San Francisco-based Uber, Travis Kalanick, said the company would do “everything to bring the perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery”.
He sought to deflect some of the blame on to Indian officials, saying the company would work with the government to establish clear background checks that are “currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programmes.”
It was not immediately clear if Uber itself performed any background check on the driver or whether Yadav would even have been flagged.
Police said they were working to verify Yadav’s claims that he had been acquitted of rape charges in 2011, after spending seven months in jail.
The New Delhi ban is a blow for Uber, which has courted acclamation and controversy around the world with a service based on hailing taxis from a smartphone app. It has faced restrictions in other countries after licensed taxi operators claimed the service was competing unfairly with local operators.
The service, which uses private cars rather than licensed cabs, promises a quicker response time that is often less than ten minutes. Drivers respond using their own Uber-provided smartphones mounted on the dashboard and follow a GPS map to an exact location.
Indian home minister Rajnath Singh spoke out against the alleged rape saying the government “strongly condemns this dastardly act”. He alleged the 26-year-old victim had fallen asleep during the ride home. When she woke up, she found the car parked in a secluded place. The driver then threatened her, raped her and took her home.
Police arrested the driver on Sunday night in his home town of Mathura, about 100 miles from the capital, after he had abandoned the Uber-registered car and fled New Delhi.
Dozens of angry protesters rallied outside the home minister’s house yesterday morning to demand more action to ensure the safety of women.
Police detained several people who were part of another anti-violence protest group that burned an effigy of prime minister Narendra Modi.