New Delhi bans Uber after alleged rape by driver

The ban and rape allegation threatens to hurt Uber’s business in India, its largest market outside the US by number of cities.

NEW DELHI // India’s capital banned taxi-booking service Uber on Monday after a woman was allegedly raped by one of its drivers.

The company was also blacklisted from providing transport services in the future, according to Delhi’s transport department.

The announcement came as the 32-year-old suspect appeared in a New Delhi court.

The court is expected to formally charge Shiv Kumar Yadav with raping the finance company employee. He was hired to ferry her home from a dinner engagement on Friday night.

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 shift 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 programmes”.

In banning Uber, the New Delhi government said the company was operating from unregistered premises in the suburb of Gurgaon and had misled the victim about the nature of the taxi service.

The ban and rape allegation threatens to hurt Uber’s business in India, its largest market outside the US by number of cities.

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.

Indian home minister Rajnath 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 on Saturday.

Police arrested the driver on Sunday night in his hometown of Mathura, about 160 kilometres 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, Mr Singh told parliament.

Police told Press Trust of India they were working to verify Mr Yadav’s claims that he had been acquitted of rape charges in 2011, after spending seven months in jail. Dozens of angry protesters rallied outside the home minister’s house on Monday 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.

* Associated Press, with additional reporting from Bloomberg News

Published: December 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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