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The case that changed online cab aggregators in India: a timeline


Yesterday, a Delhi Court found guilty Shiv Kumar Yadav, the driver accused in the rape incident on 5th December last year, on charges of rape, causing bodily harm and endangering the life of a woman under the Indian Penal Code. This came after last week when the government issued an updated advisory for all online cab aggregators which mandated that all licensees must have safety features, as well as the ability to suspend drivers in case of untoward incidents.

A timeline of the case in 2014:

5 December: A Delhi Uber driver allegedly rapes a 27 year old woman in the company’s then recently launched lowcost Indiaonly UberGO service at night. The Delhi Police investigate, flag several security issues with Uber raises security concerns against Uber not including driver verification, background checks, live GPS tracking system independent of the phone and driver license. DCP (North) Madhur Verma mentions that the driver was a repeat offender and had faced rape charges in 2011, something which slipped Uber’s radar before hiring him.

7 December: Uber says that it has provided the local authorities with all relevant details including driver details (name, age, photo, complete driver’s license details, bank verified address), vehicle details (license, registration, insurance, state issued permit) and trip details (trip data, route, pickup and dropoff location). It also mentions that it exclusively partners with registered forhire drivers who have undergone commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, stateissued permits, and carry full commercial insurance.

8 December: Delhi Government considers cancelling Uber’s permit and scrutinising the permits of all private taxi services. It also sends a notice to Uber under the section 161 of CrPC and is considering legal action against the company for failing to run background checks on drivers before onboarding them.

Ban on online cab aggregator permits

9 December: Delhi Government bans all unlicensed taxi services such as Ola, Uber, TaxiForSure, until they get a license from the department. Delhi Police files FIR against Uber for negligent conduct, a separate one for Section 420 (cheating) of IPC and is considering Section 188 (driving dangerously or under the influence of drugs and alcohol) of the Motor Vehicles Act. Home ministry advises all state governments and union territories to ensure that operations of online taxi services like Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure are stopped until they register themselves with state administrations.

12 December: Delhi Government bans Uber’s services in the city saying that it is “misleading consumers” by plying taxis with All India permits, not allowed while offering point to point travel services in the city. However, we believe that radio taxi guidelines do not apply to platforms like Uber, given their definition of being a tech platform allowing drivers to list cars and consumers to hire taxis, neither owning cars nor employing the drivers. Karnataka joins Delhi, followed by Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments in banning Uber. Chandigarh declares 3 radio taxis (not including Ola and Uber) authorised. Mumbai orders all 28 private cab companies to provide data on their drivers, background checks on Mumbai and Jaipur drivers driving regular black and yellow taxis, according to the police. We are not quite sure how effective this ban has been, since several taxi services including Ola & TaxiForSure are still operating in New Delhi.

17 December: Uber promises to invest more in consumer safety across its global 260 cities to include police verification, document verification, background checks, Incident Response Team and Share My ETA.

Online cab aggregators are now under the radio taxi scheme

26 December: Delhi Transport Department brings online cab aggregators under Radio taxi license by amending its Radio taxi regulations (pdf). The department says that these services will continue to remain banned until they comply with new norms and opt for a radio taxi license.

Driver charged with rape, kidnapping, criminal intimidation

13 January: A Delhi court charges the driver Shiv Kumar Yadav with rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation and forgery for obtaining a fake character certificate through which he had secured the driver permit.

19 January: The Delhi female victim plans to sue Uber for negligence in the US courts and hires New York based litigator Douglas Wigdor for the same. (30 January: Uber is sued by the victim for negligence & fraud in the US federal court.)

Uber applies for radio taxi license, resumes operations

23 January: Uber resumes operations in Delhi, a month after they were suspended. Uber says that it has applied for a radio taxi license on 22 January to resume operations in the city and is currently allowing only drivers who have undergone re-verification of their police clearance in the last six weeks to drive on the platform.

28 January: Uber modifies its business model to temporarily adopt a no-commission model since its relaunch in Delhi.

29 January: Delhi Transport Department finds certain deficiencies in the license applications of Uber, Ola, TaxiForSure and NTL Call Cabs, and rejects their applications in their then form. Uber says that it has adopted PoochO’s model, since it allows them to “legally operate while working out the details of a long-term solution with the government”, however PoochO currently aggregates only autos, withs plans to add taxis in the future.

Uber launches the SOS button in India

9 February: Uber rolls out an update on its app in India, installing a panic SOS button alerting the local police in case of an emergency. It will also have a second safety feature called safety net allowing users to easily share their trip details and real-time location with up to 5 friends and family members.

19 February: Uber is given seven days to complete its radio taxi license application as per the new regulations by the Delhi Government or face rejection.

24 February: Uber ties up with location based mobile safety app Safetipin to enable Uber’s partner drivers to collect area data across Delhi from February 25 to improve passenger safety. This pilot program will be continued for the next 5 months.

25 February: The Delhi government transport department starts a consultation with the Centre to block the IP address of Uber and shut down its operations in the country if it does not get a radio taxi licence to ply.

26 March: The Delhi government asks the Ministry of Communications & IT to block the online taxi booking apps of Uber and Ola in the city because it wants the two companies to stop operating till their radio taxi licenses are processed and cleared.

8 April: Uber asks a US district court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Delhi rape victim for negligence and fraud in January this year, because Uber believes it should not be held legally responsible for its driver’s act. According to the company, the driver was contracted with its Netherlands based entity Uber BV which doesn’t operate in the US and has no relationship with Uber US.

10 April: Uber launches an on-demand auto rickshaw service called uberAUTO on its platform in Delhi, five months after Ola starts piloting an on-demand auto rickshaw service on its mobile app in Bangalore.

Police coordination via SOS button on the Uber app

1 May: Uber upgrades its in-app SOS button to have closer coordination with local police control rooms in case of an emergency. When users press the SOS button it places a call with local law enforcement, generates an automatic alert and sends it directly to the local police control room.

4 & 12 May: Uber launches intercity services, starting with shuttle services between Mumbai and Pune. The service, named uberINTERCITY, will be offered for a limited time ‘until further notice’. Uber starts testing cash payments in Hyderabad in a bid to catch up with rivals Ola and TaxiForSure. Globally, Uber has not accepted cash payments in any other city. India is now Uber’s second largest market, following the US.

ISPs say they cannot block websites of cab aggregators

15 May: Internet service providers in Delhi write to the Department of Telecom (DoT) about their inability to block websites of Uber and Ola, after the DoT asks ISPs to block the websites for no clear reason, earlier this week.

2 June: A Uber driver allegedly misbehaves with a female passenger in Gurgaon, and forcibly tries to kiss her. The passenger complains to Uber, to which the company says that they’ve “a zero tolerance policy for this behaviour” and that they were “following up with Vinod (the driver) appropriately, and immediately.”

150 cars impounded for not complying with ban

4 June: The Delhi Government rejects the applications for licence by Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure, as the cab aggregators have not complied with the ban imposed in December. The Delhi police have allegedly impounded over 150 cars in the last 24 hours, while the transportation minister says that several such teams have been formed to get unlicensed cabs off the road.

US ruling says drivers are employees of Uber

18 June: In the US, a California Labor Commission ruling says that drivers working for technology platforms like Uber are essentially employees of the company, and not independent contractors. It said that while platforms like Uber may “hold themselves out as nothing more than a neutral technological platform, designed simply to enable drivers and passengers to transact the business of transportation…”. This ruling is restricted to only the case in question (Barbara Ann Brewick vs. Uber Technologies) and will not apply to other cases.

1 July: Uber expands to seven more cities in India, namely Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Indore, Mysore, Nagpur, Surat and Visakhapatnam, taking its total cities of operation to 18.

Uber moves High Court to lift ban

8 July: The Delhi High Court grants some relief to Uber and sets aside the Delhi government’s ban on the service. Uber had moved the High Court last week seeking to lift the ban on its services  and challenged an order of the city government denying extension of its licence to operate radio cabs in the national capital.

13 July: Uber resumes payments via credit cards in India, 9 months after the Reserve Bank of India had raised concerns over two factor authentication and violation of foreign exchange laws in India.

Offline taxi union protests against self drive in Leh-Ladakh 

21 July: Self drive car company Zoomcar and Myles advise their users to exercise caution if travelling to Ladakh after the taxi union of Leh-Ladakh issues warnings against going into and out of the region in a self drive car.

29 July: Zoomcar issues advisory to its users after the taxi union of Leh-Ladakh starts damaging cars and threatening users of self-drive cars from entering the area. All outside cars (even personal cars) are being restricted from entering Leh, despite the fact that Zoomcar has a commercial vehicle designation allowing its users to drive anywhere in India without a special driver’s license of badge.

Uber cars damaged in Mumbai after protest & strike from offline taxis 

14 August: Uber reports incidents of its cabs being damaged, drivers assaulted and Uber-issued mobile phones being taken away in Pune and Mumbai, by some groups of people. Uber claims that the ‘politically motivated groups’ have threatened to shut down aggregator services in the city after issuing strikes and are aiming to pressurise the government to pass laws against the aggregator industry in the state of Maharashtra. (A TOI report from June states that as many as 150 cabs were damaged in violence and incidents of regular cabs overcharging were reported after cab aggregators did not ply in the city.)

26 August: Drivers on the Uber Hyderabad platform accuse the company of being dishonorable with regards to incentive promises. Uber tells MediaNama that less than 0.5% of its driver base in Hyderabad ‘expressed some concerns regarding temporary incentives’, and that its teams were working to address the drivers’ concerns.

Traditional taxis go on strike; Uber US drivers can file class action lawsuit

1 September: A strike is called to demand for the ban on operators such as Ola and Uber, as it is negatively affecting the business of traditional black-yellow taxis in Mumbai. In response, Uber disables its surge pricing for the day in the affected areas.

2 September: Online cab aggregators Ola and Uber start charging their drivers Rs 300 a week to try and prevent them from using other aggregating platforms. This charge, which applies regardless of usage, is being attributed to phone, mobile Internet connections and other services provided by the aggregators.

2 September: In the US, a federal judge rules that all Uber drivers in California, who have not waived their rights to class action arbitration, can bring a class action suit against Uber, claiming that that Uber treats its drivers like employees without providing them employee benefits. If a class action lawsuit takes place, it will force Uber to pay drivers health insurance, workers’ compensation and work expenses like tolls, fuel costs and car repairs. This case is different from California Labor Commission’s decision that Uber drivers are employees.

3 September: The Delhi victim withdraws her court case against the company in the United States. According to the company, the accused driver was contracted with its Netherlands-based entity Uber BV, which doesn’t operate in US and hence has no relationship with Uber US.

8 September:  Uber starts accepting cash payments for rides across all 22 cities that it operates in.

1 October: The Maharashtra state government proposes that online cab aggregators such as Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure be brought under the ambit of the Motor Vehicles Act. The state government adds that no person can function as an aggregator unless registered with Transport Department. Entire report here. The entire proposed regulations here.

8 October: Uber integrates the SOS button into its Help button across all 22 cities of its operation, in case of an emergency while on a ride. The company told MediaNama that the police control solution was live only in Kolkata, and that it was in advanced talks with other local police to deploy it in the next few weeks.

17 October: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issues an advisory for the licensing, compliance and liability of on demand IT based transportation aggregators in India, which states that all on demand transportation technology aggregators or their subsidiaries in India must obtain a license under Section 93 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 from the state transport authority area where they’re operating. It lays down rules like a 24×7 operational call centre, commercial insurance, passenger safety options among others to operate in the country. Ola and Uber welcome the move.

20 October: Shiv Kumar Yadav, the driver accused in the rape incident on 5th December last year, is found guilty on charges of rape, causing bodily harm and endangering the life of a woman under the Indian Penal Code. Uber welcomes the judgment saying “Yadav has now been brought to justice.. we are continually looking for ways to improve safety before, during and after the ride.”

3 November: Shiv Kumar Yadav is sentenced to life imprisonment.

Image Credit: Flickr user Alper Çuğun

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By Torsha Sarkar, Gurshabad Grover, Raghav Ahooja, Pallavi Bedi and Divyank Katira. With assistance from Tanvi Apte. Edited and reviewed by Amber Sinha Preliminary...

MediaNama is the premier source of information and analysis on Technology Policy in India. More about MediaNama, and contact information, here.

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© 2008-2021 Mixed Bag Media Pvt. Ltd. Developed By PixelVJ