The Uber cab driver accused of raping a 25-year-old financial analyst in Delhi was arrested from his home town Mathura on Sunday, as the US online taxi-booking service faced several questions over lack of security checks.
Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, was nabbed by a joint team of the Delhi and Mathura police from the temple town in Uttar Pradesh where his car was found abandoned a day earlier.
He would be produced before a court in the Capital on Monday, Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner of Delhi Police (north), said.
Yadav allegedly assaulted a 25-year-old woman MNC employee in north Delhi's Sarai Rohilla late Friday night. The woman hailed a ride with him via Uber, which has launched an aggressive international expansion.
The alleged rape, reported days before the second anniversary of the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in the Capital in December 2012, could have Uber facing legal action.
The San Francisco-based firm failed to run a background check on Yadav, also the car owner, and the vehicle was without a satellite tracking device, the police said. The address he gave to Uber was fake.
Police served a notice on the firm, asking it to join the investigation. “Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we’ll go for legal recourse,” Verma said. The police would take legal advice before opting to press a criminal or civil case, he added.
The cab service initially could not produce the call records of the accused as the server was located in the US.
This made it difficult for the police initially. The breakthrough came after around 12 police teams carried out raids in different parts of UP, especially around Mathura, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of New Delhi where the crime took place.
Laxmi Singh, deputy inspector general for Agra Range, said, "Police in Mathura, in coordination with the Delhi Police, were looking for the accused, who was finally arrested on Sunday evening from Meera Mohan Colony under Highway police station."
The driver had locked himself in a house to dodge the police teams chasing him, Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of Delhi Police (law and order), said.
The arrest came barely 30 minutes after the Delhi Police announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for information leading to Yadav.
Uber faces the heat
Uber has faced critical news coverage over its driver screening in the US.
“Safety is Uber’s highest priority and in India, we work with licenced driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform,” said Evelyn Tay, an Uber spokesperson.
But, it took the Delhi Police almost eight hours to trace Uber’s office in Gurgaon though the victim had provided them a picture of the car’s number plate she clicked on her phone.
Investigators found the Uber office locked, police said. The supervisor, they said, had little information about Yadav.
“The iPhone that was provided to him by Uber to track his location was switched off,” a senior investigating officer said. The SIM card of the phone was registered in the name of another driver, Gaurav, who told them that Yadav was a native of Mathura, the officer said.
The rape victim, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, told police she boarded the Uber cab at 9.30pm from south Delhi's Vasant Vihar, where she had gone for a party with friends.
She was raped at an isolated place between Sarai Rohilla and Inderlok, police said, adding the cabbie threatened to kill and sexually assault her with a rod if she resisted him. He dropped her home after the attack.
The cabbie even gave her a missed call from his mobile phone, police added.
According to her complaint, the woman had gone to a restaurant for dinner with some friends after her shift ended at 7pm. One of her friends dropped her till Vasant Vihar from where she hired the cab.
On the way, the woman dozed off on the back seat only to wake up and find that the car had stopped at a secluded spot.
The car doors were locked. When she tried to raise an alarm, the driver thrashed and sexually assaulted her, police said.
"The woman clicked a photograph of the car's number plate and then made a PCR call to report the incident," police added.
The incident comes at a time when the Capital is under a high-security alert following threats of a sensational terror attack by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.Vehicle checks have been stepped up across the city and anti-sabotage barricades put in place ahead of US President Barack Obama's Republic Day visit to India.
Dozens of students scuffled with officers on Sunday as they tried to enter police headquarters in New Delhi to protest the rising incidents of rape in the Capital.
"I am here to protest the irregularities and failure of the state machinery, which refuses to acknowledge that rapes happen due to their failure," said Urvashi Joshi, one of the demonstrators.
The protesters, from the All India Students Association, dispersed after an hour-long demonstration.
Commenting on the issue, Kunal Lalani, president of Association of Radio Taxis in India, condemned the incident and said the guilty should be booked immediately.
"The cab company concerned must come forward and extend whole-hearted cooperation to the authorities probing the incident. This one-off incident has prompted all the taxi/cab companies to further tighten their background checks of its own employees/drivers prior to employing them to ensure that such heinous activity does not occur in future.
"This incident also calls for a stronger government regulation of taxi players which do not essentially operate under the licenced format of taxis and merely function as aggregators. We will take this up with the government," Lalani said.
(With agency inputs)