Indian capital bans taxi-booking service Uber

Delhi government decision follows alleged rape of executive by driver as courts order suspect’s arrest for questioning.

The Indian capital has banned the taxi-booking service Uber after a woman accused one of its drivers of raping her.

Satish Mathur, a transport official of Delhi government, made the announcement on Monday as the suspect appeared in a New Delhi court.

The court ordered Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, held for three days for police questioning over allegations that he raped the 25-year-old finance-company employee after being hired to ferry her home from a dinner engagement on Friday night.

The court also ordered Yadav’s mobile phone confiscated, according to Press Trust of India.

Uber had been gaining popularity in India, especially among young, urban workers who use its smartphone app to connect with and pay for local drivers.

Travis Kalanick, the CEO of San Francisco-based Uber, 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 Uber 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, nor was it clear whether Yadav would even have been flagged.

Past rape claims

Police told Press Trust of India 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.

The New Delhi ban is a blow for Uber, which has faced restrictions in other countries after licensed taxi operators claimed the service was competing unfairly.

Uber, which uses private cars rather than licensed taxis, 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.

The woman 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 1am on Saturday.

Police arrested the driver on Sunday night in his hometown of Mathura, about 160km from Delhi, after he had abandoned the Uber-registered car.

The car has been brought to Delhi for forensic examination, officials said.

Inadequate efforts

The case almost comes two years after the fatal gang-rape of a student on a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 stirred outrage about the high number of attacks of women in India and inadequate efforts to keep them safe.

The Indian government fast-tracked legislation last year to double prison terms for rape to 20 years and to criminalise voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women.

The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.

However, activists say much more needs to be done, including better educating youths and adding basic infrastructure such as street lights and public bathrooms.

Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people.

In remarks on Monday, Rajnath Singh, Indian home minister, said the government “strongly condemns this dastardly act” and pledged justice in the case.

Dozens of angry protesters rallied outside his house earlier in the day 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 Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, in front of the governing BJP’s headquarters in Delhi.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies