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Updated: Uber driver in rape case given life imprisonment; Case history

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3 November Update: Shiv Kumar Yadav has been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of rape, causing bodily harm and endangering the life of a woman under the IPC.

Also read: A timeline of the case that changed online cab aggregators in India.

20 October: Shiv Kumar Yadav, the driver accused in the rape incident on 5th December last year, has been found guilty on charges of rape, causing bodily harm and endangering the life of a woman under the Indian Penal Code. This was a case that changed the regulatory landscape for cab aggregators in India, with online cab aggregators being banned in many states in India, and state governments releasing policies specifically governing cab aggregators.

Following the incident, the Delhi Government banned Uber, saying that the company was not allowed to ferry customers in capital, was not an authorised radio cab service, and hence operating illegally. Uber resumed operations in Delhi a month later, after applying for a radio taxi license, allowing only those drivers who underwent re-verification of police clearance.

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued an advisory for the licensing, compliance and liability of on demand IT based transportation aggregators in India. More on that here.

Uber has responded by welcoming the judgment:

Amit Jain, Uber’s India president said, “Sexual assault is a terrible crime and we’re pleased he has now been brought to justice. Safety is a priority for Uber and we’ve made many improvements – in terms of new technology, enhanced background checks and better 24/7 customer support – as a result of the lessons we learned from this awful case. That said Uber can always do better, which is why are continually looking for ways to improve safety before, during and after the ride.”

Yadav’s previous sexual assault cases found

After an FIR was launched against him, there were reports of Yadav having a history of sexual assault with 5 registered and 27 unregistered cases, as past victims resurfaced. He had pleaded not guilty. Yadav’s sentencing is scheduled for Friday (23 October), where he could face life imprisonment as the maximum punishment after arguments.

Victim withdrew case in US

In January, the Delhi rape victim sued Uber for negligence and fraud in a US Federal Court, after she hired New York-based litigator Douglas Wigdor, to look into the possibility of suing Uber in US courts since the company’s driver screening and passenger safety policies was formulated in the United States. However, last month, the victim withdrew her court case against the company.

Liability and safety issues in cab aggregation

This case had also raised questions on Uber’s background checks on its drivers. Note that Uber maintains that drivers are not its employees, but only individuals listing on a platform that connects drivers and passengers looking to ride in its areas of operation.

According to a Scroll report, Yadav had a government permit to drive the vehicle, and had submitted forged documents while enrolling on the Uber platform. Following the incident hired First Advantage, a background check company, to bring in additional layers of screening over its standard transport licensing process which included address verification, a local criminal court search, and a national criminal database search.

Uber also rolled out an update to its app in India with a panic/SOS button to alert the local police in case of an emergency. The company said that it would have a second safety feature called safety net allowing users to share their trip details and real-time location with up to 5 friends and family members, which it has launched.

Yadav’s lawyer said he was falsely implicated

Previously, the Supreme Court had set aside Delhi High Court’s order to allow Yadav to reexamine 13 witnesses, the victim included after the victim moved the SC against the high court order. Meanwhile, Yadav’s lawyer stated that there were contradictions in the prosecution’s story, as well as the survivor’s version. DK Mishra, who appeared on Yadav’s behalf, added that false evidence had been planted to implicate him, and that the victim had changed her statements before the court and police. He also added that Uber’s data wasn’t enough and that they’d need to get data from Google’s generated map.

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