7 Dec 2014

Uber India under fire after driver held over alleged rape

Indian police arrest a driver from the international taxi-booking service Uber over an alleged rape in the capital.

“The prime accused in the case has been arrested,” Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner with the Delhi police, told Reuters.

The suspect was arrested in his home town in Uttar Pradesh where his car was earlier found abandoned. He will be brought before a court in New Delhi on Monday.

The 26-year-old woman told police that she had been sexually assaulted and beaten when she got a ride with the Uber driver after a social event late Friday in south Delhi.

Legal action

Verma said the police would take legal action against Uber for violations including a failure to check whether the driver, named as Shiv Kumar Yadav, had a clean police record and the lack of a satellite location device in his car.

“Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we will go for legal recourse,” said Verma, saying police would take legal advice before opting to press a criminal or civil case.

Delhi protest

Mallika Dutta, founder and president of human rights organisation Breakthrough told Channel 4 News that India is dealing with a culture of impunity in regards to women, and that focussing on the US online cab service was “misplaced.”

Uber has faced critical news coverage over its driver screening in the United States, and has apologised for comments by an executive who suggested “digging up dirt” on journalists investigating the firm.

Delhi recorded the highest number of rapes in India in 2013, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, earning the dubious distinction of being India’s “rape capital”.

Police attribute the rise in reports to more women coming forward due to greater public awareness following the high profile gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in December 2012.

‘Safety a priority’

Uber said in a statement on Sunday that it had suspended the driver following the allegations, in line with company policy, and have provided the authorities with “all relevant details,” such as driver, vehicle and trip information.

“Safety is Uber’s highest priority and in India, we work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option,” Uber spokeswoman Evelyn Tay said on the company’s blog.