An Indian Uber taxi driver was convicted on Tuesday (21) of raping a young female passenger in the capital last year, a case that sparked fresh fears in a city plagued by sexual violence.
Uber was banned from operating in New Delhi in the aftermath of the December 5 attack, which sparked accusations it failed to conduct adequate background checks, although the ban has never been fully enforced.
The Delhi court found Shiv Kumar Yadav guilty of raping the 25-year-old woman as she returned home from dinner with friends in the Indian capital.
“Shiv Kumar Yadav is convicted of all charges (against him),” Judge Kaveri Baweja said.
Yadav will be sentenced on Friday (23) after being convicted on four charges – rape, abduction, intimidation and causing harm.
Defence lawyer Dharmender Kumar Mishra said his client would appeal the verdict at a higher court, calling the investigation “flawed”.
Shortly after the attack it emerged that Yadav had been accused of assaulting other women, although he had no previous convictions.
Yadav was tried by one of the fast-track courts introduced in 2013 following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi, a crime that sparked nationwide protests about India’s treatment of women.
The Uber rape occurred days before the second anniversary of the attack on the bus, which shone a harsh spotlight on the issue of violence against women.
The victim in the December 5 attack, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she had dozed off in a taxi while returning home from dinner.
She told police she woke to find the taxi parked in a secluded place where the driver raped her, before dumping her near her home in north Delhi.
The woman also hired a lawyer in New York in January to sue Uber in US courts but later dropped the lawsuit.
“I think it (the verdict) is extremely important in times when we are getting more and more incidents of sexual violence,” Ranjana Kumari, head of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, told reporters.
Tuesday’s judgement comes days after a toddler and a five-year-old girl were raped in separate attacks in New Delhi.
India recorded 36,735 rape cases in 2014, with 2,096 of them in Delhi alone. Experts say those figures are likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Uber, which resumed operations in the capital earlier this year despite the ban, said it had learnt lessons from the case and made improvements for better safety.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime and we’re pleased he has now been brought to justice,” Amit Jain, Uber India president, said in a statement on the verdict.
The California-based startup’s rapid international growth has sparked tensions in several countries, with rival taxi companies protesting that Uber cars are not subject to the same regulations.
It set up its India operation in September 2013 and now works in more than a dozen cities.
The company and its Indian rival Ola applied for formal licences to operate as radio taxi companies after they were banned from operating in December.
Authorities in Delhi rejected Uber’s application, saying it had failed to comply with requirements for a licence including a GPS system to track taxis and police-verified badges for drivers.
But last week the federal government published new guidelines for web-based ride-hailing firms – including installing emergency alarms – a move seen as a boost for Uber’s battle for legal status.
Uber hopes to hit a target of one million rides a day in India, as it pumps in an extra $1 billion (£646,439 million) in the country of 1.2 billion people.