NEW DELHI (AFP, Reuters) - An Uber driver was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Indian court on Tuesday (Nov 3) for raping a passenger in New Delhi, in a case that highlighted the dangers faced by women from violent sex attackers.
Driver Shiv Kumar Yadav received the maximum sentence after he was found guilty last month of the rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation of the 25-year-old woman who hailed a ride home from a party last December.
Shiv Kumar Yadav "will serve regressive imprisonment, which shall mean imprisonment til natural death," judge Kaveri Baweja told the court.
Yadav got his job with Uber with fake references, enabling him to hide his criminal record. The firm, valued at US$50 billion (S$70 billion) this year, was banned in Delhi as a result and has only recently regained the right to operate after tightening driver checks.
"Keeping in view the facts and evidences in the case, I sentence Shiv Kumar Yadav, to rigorous life imprisonment," Additional Sessions Judge Kaveri Baweja told the court.
The case revived memories of the horrific rape and murder on a moving bus of a young physiotherapist in Delhi in 2012, which became the subject of a BBC documentary that was banned by the Indian government this year.
The authorities fast-tracked Yadav's trial to meet the public's demand for swift justice. "We are happy that justice has been delivered and that the process didn't take that long," said Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner with the Delhi police.
The victim, a woman working for an international consulting firm, fell asleep on the way home. Yadav then drove to a secluded place and raped her.
Yadav's lawyer, D.K. Mishra, said he would appeal against the sentence in a higher court. "My client is innocent," he told reporters after the sentence was passed.
The passenger also sued Uber in a US federal court in January, but later withdrew her suit.
Indian authorities face sustained criticism for not doing enough to address a weak system of law enforcement and policing that leaves women vulnerable to sex crimes. Politicians often blame rape victims for the crime committed against them in comments that reflect entrenched patriarchal attitudes in India.
In 2014, 36,735 rapes were committed and nearly 338,000 crimes against women were reported, according to data from India's National Crime Records Bureau.
After the December incident, Uber introduced safety measures and tightened driver checks. A court recently revoked the ban on the company's services in Delhi.
Last month, the federal government released guidelines to regulate online taxi companies, saying they should do stringent security checks and not contract anyone convicted of a "cognisable offence" under India's criminal laws.