Delhi to ban all internet taxi firms after Uber rape claim

Updated 09 Dec 2014

Email

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber. — Reuters/File
An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber. — Reuters/File

NEW DELHI: India's capital has decided to ban all internet-based taxi firms after a female passenger reported she was raped by a driver contracted to US online cab company Uber, a government official said on Tuesday.

The Delhi transport department issued a public notice in a national daily stating that only six registered radio taxi companies are allowed to operate in New Delhi.

“We have banned Uber. Another public notice will be issued tomorrow for banning all non-registered cab service providers. It's almost done,” said Kuldeep Singh Gangar, spokesman of the Delhi's transport department.

Uber was blacklisted in New Delhi on Monday after police said it had failed to run background checks on the driver, who was arrested three years ago in a similar case but later acquitted.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh may issue a statement to parliament calling on India's federal states and union territories to ban Uber, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

The company operates in around 10 Indian cities.

A representative for Uber said the company had not been officially notified of any ban in New Delhi and would issue a statement later on Tuesday.

It was still possible to hail an Uber taxi in the Indian capital using the company's smartphone application on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old suspect appeared in a New Delhi court.

The court ordered Shiv Kumar Yadav to 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 confiscated, according to Press Trust of India.

The case, 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 and demands for more effort to ensure women's safety.

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 educating youths and adding basic infrastructure such as street lights and public bathrooms.

The CEO 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 also sought to deflect some of the blame on to officials, saying the company would work with the government to establish clear background checks that are “currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.”

It was not immediately clear if Uber itself performed any background check, nor was it clear whether Yadav would even have been flagged.

Police told Press Trust of India (PTI) they were working to verify Yadav's claims that he had been acquitted of rape charges in 2011, after spending seven months in jail.

PTI did not give any further details or name the police source.

In banning Uber, the New Delhi government also said the company was operating from unregistered premises in the suburb of Gurgaon.

The 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.

The service, which uses private cars rather than licensed cabs, promises a quicker response time that is often less than 10 minutes.

Drivers respond using their own Uber-provided smartphones mounted on the dashboard and follow a GPS map to an exact location.

Singh said the government “strongly condemns this dastardly act” and pledged justice in the case.

He said 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 then took her home around 1 am Saturday.

Police arrested the driver Sunday night in his hometown of Mathura, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the capital, after he had abandoned the Uber-registered car and fled New Delhi.

The car has been brought to Delhi for forensic examination, Singh told parliament.

Dozens of angry protesters rallied outside the home minister's house on Monday morning to demand more action to ensure women's safety.

Police detained several people who were part of another anti-violence protest group that burned an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in front of his political party's headquarters.