Licence awaited but Uber taxis back on Delhi roads

  • Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 24, 2015 01:21 IST

Uber taxis were back on Delhi roads on Friday, about a month after they were outlawed following the alleged rape of a 25-year-old executive by one of its drivers, but police said the firm wasn’t allowed to operate in the city because the ban hadn’t been lifted.

The US-based company applied for a licence to operate as a mobile app-based cab-booking service with the Delhi government’s transport department on Thursday. Official sources, however, said Uber couldn’t restore cab services unless granted licence, which will take at least two weeks.

“We will not allow Uber to operate in the city without obtaining license from the Delhi government. We will prosecute them if they violate orders,” said special commissioner of police (traffic) Muktesh Chander.

The move was also condemned by the rape victim’s lawyer Douglas H. Wigdor, who said neither he nor the victim were sure the so-called India-specific safety measures would prevent another attack.

“According to news reports and an email they had the audacity to send directly to my client, Uber announced it has re-entered the Delhi market. While we don’t doubt Uber is focused on its bottom-line, we are surprised as we had made it clear the victim wanted to be part of a consultation process regarding safety procedures to ensure no other person becomes a victim at the hands of an Uber driver,” a statement from the lawyer said.

Under modified rules for radio taxis, companies are responsible for the quality of drivers, their police verification and conduct with passengers, the transport department said. Police investigations had revealed the accused driver in the December rape had a record of sexual assault, with Uber admitting it hadn’t conducted a background check.

“They have applied for a licence with 50 drivers who have agreed to work for Uber under its aggregation model. We will verify if the drivers have proper documents and if their verification has been done. The licence will be granted when everything is found in order. It may take at least a fortnight,” an official said.

Uber was banned after the city government found web-based taxi-booking companies flouting the 2006 Radio Taxi scheme guidelines. The transport department later tweaked the norms to accommodate mobile and web-based companies.

Under the modified rules, taxis of all app-based companies have to be CNG-run and fitted with GPS devices, two-way mobile-based communication systems, and panic buttons for emergency calls to be transmitted to the company’s control centre and the police control room.

Cab companies will maintain call centres of their own or operate out of an authorised call centre, something firms such as Uber weren’t doing earlier.

“Companies will be responsible for police verification on drivers and submit criminal records to the transport department,” a department spokesperson said.

(with inputs from Washington)

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