NEW DELHI: Delhi's government on Monday banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape, dealing a fresh blow to the online taxi company's public image.
The popular but controversial service has come in for heavy criticism in India since a young company executive said she had been raped by an Uber driver, who had previously been accused of assault.
Local media reports say Uber failed to carry out a background check on the 32-year-old man, who had spent several months in jail on a separate rape charge before being acquitted in 2012.
Uber is banned from operating in Delhi with immediate effect and the company will be "on a blacklist" regarding the provision of transport services in the future, a government statement said.
"(The) Transport Department has banned all activities relating to providing any transport service by the www.Uber.com with immediate effect," said the city government in a statement.
It also said it had cancelled the licence and registration certificate of the driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, who was remanded in custody for three days on Monday while police investigate.
Police arrested him on Sunday after tracking him down to his native Uttar Pradesh state, where he had fled.
San Francisco-based Uber, which lets customers hail and pay for taxis or private vehicles via a smartphone app, has expanded at breakneck speed since it launched in 2009 and is now present in more than 200 cities across 45 countries.
But its rapid growth has caused deep tensions, especially in Europe, where rival taxi companies have protested that Uber cars are not subject to the same stringent regulations as they are.
The alleged attack has again raised the issue of women's safety in India, days before the second anniversary of a fatal gang-rape of a Delhi student that unleashed widespread outrage.
"It is really sad because this was one app you thought you could trust," said Delhi housewife Anu Chadha. "This incident has shocked everyone."
The victim, an executive at a finance company who is in her mid-20s, dozed off in the taxi as she was returning home from dinner with a friend.
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.
Although the driver threatened to kill her if she reported the crime to police, the woman took a photo of the car's number plate before alerting the authorities.
Delhi police said it appeared that Uber had not followed the standard procedures for private cab services in the city.
Special commissioner Deepak Mishra said Sunday that early investigations showed GPS had not been installed in the taxi and police background checks were not conducted on the driver.
However Uber said it had complied with city regulations. Background checks are "currently absent in (Delhi's) commercial transportation licensing programmes," chief executive Travis Kalanick said in a statement.
"What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. Our entire team's hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime," the statement said.
"We will do everything... to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery."
The latest incident comes as Uber tries to undo damage to its public image from a series of embarrassing incidents, including negative comments about the media from a top executive who proposed setting up a team to dig up dirt on critical reporters.
That controversy widened when a BuzzFeed report indicated that executives at Uber had taken liberties with access to an internal company tool called "God View" that showed where riders and their drivers were located at any given time.
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