The rape of a female passenger by an Uber driver that opened a can of worms for taxi aggregators in India is finally reaching its conclusion.
Shiv Kumar Yadav, the Uber driver who was accused of raping a 27-year-old woman in India’s capital city last December, has been convicted by a Delhi court. Yadav now faces a maximum of life imprisonment, though the punishment will be announced on Oct. 23.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime and we’re pleased he has now been brought to justice,” Amit Jain, president of Uber India, said in a statement.
“Safety is a priority for Uber and we’ve made many improvements—in terms of new technology, enhanced background checks and better customer support —as a result of the lessons we learned from this awful case.”
In January, charges against Yadav were framed under sections 366 and 323 of the Indian Penal Code. The offences included “endangering a woman’s life while raping her, kidnapping with an intent to compel her for marriage, criminally intimidating and causing hurt,” the Indian Express newspaper reported.
After sexually assaulting the passenger, Yadav, who had picked her up from south Delhi’s posh Vasant Vihar neighbourhood, had reportedly threatened her not to report the incident to the police before dropping her home.
As many as 28 witnesses recorded statements, identifying Yadav as the rapist.
Almost a month after the incident, the passenger who worked at a finance company in Gurgaon, sued the San Francisco-based startup in a federal court in the US. However, without revealing any details on an out-of-court settlement, she ended the lawsuit in September.
The incident did significant damage to Uber’s reputation in India.
Prior to the rape case, Uber—and other Indian cab aggregators, including Ola and TaxiForSure—had a free run in India. Since their launch, these companies were constantly racing each other by rapidly expanding their fleets. However, the December incident came as a harsh reality check, with serious questions raised about their safety measures and recruitment process. In fact, at the time of the rape, Uber did not even have a country head in India—and used to run their services from a business hotel in Gurgaon. Amit Jain, the former president of US-based real estate portal Rent.com, was appointed to head the India operations only in May this year.
In the wake of the incident, the home ministry even advised all states to ban taxi aggregators.
In the last 10 months, while the ban has been lifted in most states, taxi aggregators have been forced to tweak their business models significantly to continue plying. The ban in Delhi was recently revoked, provided all taxi aggregators shift to CNG cabs by March 1.