A Delhi court sent on Monday an Uber taxi driver accused of raping a 25-year-old executive to police custody for three days as the state government banned the app-based cab booking service in the Capital.
The Delhi Police are considering legal action against Uber for hiring the driver, who was arrested and jailed on allegations of sexual assault on a previous occasion, without running a background check.
Police said Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, had spent nearly two years in jail over another rape charge before being acquitted last year when the victim allegedly turned hostile and the court found contradictions in her statement.
"Keeping in view the violation and the horrific crime committed by the driver, the transport department has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by the www.Uber.com with immediate effect," said an official statement.
"M/s Uber also misled the commuter (the victim) about the nature of the taxi service offered by the Uber App."
On Friday night, Yadav allegedly raped an executive from a Gurgaon-based finance company in north Delhi's Sarai Rohilla before dropping her home, sparking outrage in the city weeks before the second anniversary of the fatal gangrape of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus.
Although Yadav threatened to kill her if she reported the crime to police, the woman took a photo of the car's number plate before alerting the authorities. The executive, who was returning from a dinner party, had booked a cab home using the Uber app.
Police tracked Yadav down and arrested him on Sunday from his home town Mathura,160 kilometers (100 miles) south of New Delhi, where he had fled.
He refused to participate in an identification line-up on Monday after police told the court they had not yet recovered the mobile phone he used during the incident.
Late in the evening, the Delhi Police said they would file a separate case for forgery against Yadav as a character certificate issued in his favour shown to be from the office of additional CP (south-east district) was forged.
HT had broken news of this 'character certificate' online.
The 'document', dated May 2014, bears the signature of LT Hrangchal, who served as additional DCP (south-east) but was transferred out of Delhi in February 2013.
"We verified the authenticity of the certificate from our official records and learnt that no such certificate was issued. We will register a separate case as the offence attracts sections 420, 468 and 471 (cheating and forgery of documents) of IPC," said Deepak Mishra, special CP (law and order).
It has also emerged that an employee of a Gurgaon pub had pressed rape charges against Yadav at the Mehrauli police station in 2011.
"She had hired Yadav's cab from the local taxi stand in Gurgaon to reach her rented flat in Kishangarh (Delhi) after finishing her work around 3am on December 13, 2011. He remained in jail till his acquittal on July 11, 2012. The woman withdrew the case when it reached the trial stage," said a police officer familiar with that case.
Meanwhile, anger mounted in New Delhi where a crowd of angry protesters rallied outside the home minister's residence, demanding more action by officials to ensure safety for women.
"The shocking incident of rape of a young woman in a cab on Friday night exposes the alarming situation about lack of women safety in the national capital," the Aam Aadmi Party said in a statement.
Uber on back foot
The Delhi Police had served Uber with a notice on Sunday, asking it to join the investigation. On Monday, it questioned two of its employees in the presence of their lawyer for almost four hours.
"We have definitely decided to register an FIR against Uber. It will be done by Tuesday morning," Madhur Verma, DCP (north), told HT.
Gagan Bhatia, regional manager (in charge of Delhi-NCR), and his colleague were quizzed over the norms Uber follows while registering drivers. Bhatia dodged the media after the questioning, saying: "It's an ongoing investigation. I would not like to comment."
Investigators believe Uber is guilty of negligence for registering drivers like Yadav without verifying their antecedents. They also believe that the company has violated basic guidelines set by the government for taxi operators and taxi booking service providers.
Special commissioner Deepak Mishra said early investigations showed GPS had not been installed in Yadav's taxi and police background checks were not conducted on the driver.
Uber initially could not even produce the call records of the accused as the server was located in the US.
San Francisco-based Uber had earlier issued a statement saying its thoughts were with the young woman and it was working with the government to address the issue.
The criticism of Uber comes at a time when the company has faced critical news coverage over its driver screening in the United States and could spell trouble across the globe for the company.
The cab booking company, however, tried to shift some of the blame on to the Delhi government for the failure to carry out background checks on the accused.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued a statement, terming the incident horrific.
"What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. Our entire team's hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime. We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.
"We will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs. We will also partner closely with the groups who are leading the way on women's safety here in New Delhi and around the country and invest in technology advances to help make New Delhi a safer city for women," the statement said.
(With inputs from agencies)