Uber driver arrested for India rape was career criminal out on bail for sexual assault: Police

Indian police escort Uber taxi driver Shiv Kumar Yadav (centre), who is accused of rape, following his court appearance in New Delhi on Dec 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian police escort Uber taxi driver Shiv Kumar Yadav (centre), who is accused of rape, following his court appearance in New Delhi on Dec 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (Reuters/AFP) - The Uber taxi driver held on suspicion of raping a passenger in India is a career criminal who was out on bail for sexually assaulting a woman, the Indian police said, raising fresh concerns about the safety of using the United States cab company.

Mr Madhur Verma, a deputy commissioner with the Delhi police, said Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, has charges dating back more than a decade. Yadav's offences include robbery, molestation and possessing an unlicensed firearm.

Mr Verma said on his Twitter page on Tuesday that Yadav was a "big-time rogue" in his home town of Mainpuri, in the poor and lawless state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. On Monday, Yadav was remanded in custody for three days by a Delhi court.

The Indian government has requested that all state governments ban Uber and all other unregistered, Web-based taxi companies from operating amid passenger safety concerns.

The case has triggered protests, questions in Parliament and reignited an angry debate about the safety of women in Asia's third-largest economy, especially New Delhi, which is often dubbed India's rape capital.

Public outrage has been fuelled further by Uber acknowledging that it failed to carry out background checks on the driver and that he was able to obtain a forged character reference supposedly signed by a police officer.

A US-based woman Nidhi Shah said on her Twitter page that she had lodged a complaint with Uber about the behaviour of Yadav 10 days before the attack took place.

She said in her complaint that the driver constantly stared at her in the rear-view mirror, making her uncomfortable during the journey.

“I took a cab with Shiv Kumar Yadav in Delhi on Nov 26. Scares me beyond belief,” she tweeted late on Tuesday. “He was staring at me and smiling - made me feel quite uncomfortable.”

She also posted the response from an Uber customer services operator, detailing the driver’s name, that said the complaint had been passed on to the driver operations team and would be investigated. Uber told her it would investigate the case.

“A few of you have said that I should have reported Shiv Kumar Yadav further,” Shah tweeted.

“Here’s the reality - being stared at creepily is SO common.”

India is the second-largest market after the United States for Uber by number of cities covered. It operated in 11 cities in India, including New Delhi, before the rape allegations.

The Uber service stopped working in the Indian capital on Wednesday, two days after the state government banned it.

Uber sent a text message to drivers in the city promising to pay all drivers by Friday. "Uber is deeply shocked and saddened this week," the message said. "Many of you have sent supportive words and we are very grateful."

In the latest incident, the victim dozed off in the taxi as she was returning home from dinner. She told police she woke to find the taxi parked in a secluded place where the driver assaulted and raped her, before dumping her near her home in north Delhi.

Indian police have registered a case against Uber for “cheating” and summoned its officials for questioning over the alleged rape.

It also operates in 10 other Indian cities, but the federal government has issued an advisory to all states asking them to prohibit unregistered web-based taxi services such as Uber from operating.