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The Stack Archive

Uber absolves itself of Delhi rape driver responsibility

Tue 7 Apr 2015

$40 billion online taxi behemoth Uber has asked a U.S. court to dismiss the lawsuit pertaining to the rape of one of its passengers in Delhi last December. Late yesterday the San Francisco-based tax-ordering company, which seems to wreathe itself in fresh controversy on a weekly basis as it seeks new inroads into untapped global urban markets, submitted a new request in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Doe vs. Uber Technologies Inc. claiming that the victim has no right to hold Uber accountable for the incident. The filing reads in part:

“While Plaintiff undoubtedly can state a claim against her alleged assailant, she cannot state a claim against Uber U.S., which is the wrong party. Nor does California law govern a dispute involving an alleged wrong committed by one Indian citizen against another Indian citizen, in India,”

The accused, 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, had been implicated in three other rape cases prior to the alleged incident last year, and later was reported to have confessed to police during his detention that he had raped many women in the same cab in the months leading up to the alleged assault against a 27-year-old female executive in the Indian capital. Additionally he was previously charged with arson and arrested for carrying illegal weapons.

The request follows news that rape charges have been dropped in the case of a Chicago Uber driver alleged to have raped a female passenger later last December, in the light of new evidence presented to Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Another case of Chicago Uber rape allegedly took place in January, and is still ongoing.

When news of the Delhi rape incident broke Uber was widely criticised for having failed to perform adequate background checks on Yadav, and for inadequate response to a complaint by another female passenger in the week prior to the incident.

Part of Yadav’s vetting by Uber involved the presentation of a character certificate from the Delhi police, which they later disclaimed as ‘fake’, but which does raise the complicated question of accountability for a U.S. company providing a trust-intensive service within a dense urban centre known for questionable legal and civic practices.

Opinion To the casual observer the request by Uber to absolve itself of responsibility for the alleged incident is at best callous, and seems inappropriately analogous to the ‘safe harbour’ provision frequently afforded to other digital entities in the legal arena, such as ISPs or search engine providers, who may facilitate illegal activity simply by providing a service which can as easily be used by criminals as anyone else. The dismissal request sends a tacit message to Uber’s female passengers, many of whom are likely to use taxi services precisely to avoid dangerous or compromising situations in off-hours: “You’re on your own, sister”. It seems that the request is likely to be damaging to Uber whether it is granted or not.

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