The investigation into the alleged Friday night rape of a 25-year-old woman passenger by an Uber cab driver is throwing up question after question about just how the San Francisco-headquartered company has been allowed to operate a rapidly expanding business in India with so little local oversight.
According to police sources who spoke with HuffPost India, the driver, 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, did not have a commercial badge required to drive a cab in Delhi and had never been verified by the cab company even though he has been driving with the firm for more than six months.
Yadav was arrested after a dramatic chase Sunday evening from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, said Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) of north Delhi, where the case has been registered.
"We started with a completely clueless situation," said DCP Verma. "Uber did not have any information on the whereabouts of the cab or the driver."
The survivor, who got into the cab around 11 pm on Friday night to travel from Vasant Vihar in south Delhi to her residence in north Delhi, was raped by Yadav, who took her to a desolate spot after noticing that she had fallen sleep. He had also turned off his mobile phone. None of these appear to have raised any red flags at Uber, which is funded by major US venture capital funds, including Google Ventures, and is valued at $40 billion.
Uber did not have Yadav's permanent address, while his local address and mobile phone number were unverified, Verma said.
"They were not properly managed," he said, describing how the company's representatives were unable to provide information to the police team for the crucial first few hours. Even though the police party investigating the case reached the Uber office at 8 am on Saturday, they were given no information about the driver till 11 am that day.
Evelyn Tay, spokesperson for Uber, said in an emailed statement to HuffPost India that the company had fully cooperated with police investigators. "Upon being notified of this incident, our team immediately provided the local authorities with all relevant details," she said. This included details of the driver such as name, photo, license details, and bank-verified address. The information also included details of the cab, and data about the trip, including pick-up and drop-off locations, according to her.
According to Verma, Yadav did not even have the commercial driver's badge that is legally required to drive a cab in the National Capital Region.
Tay didn't say whether the company verifies licenses themselves. "Safety is our #1 priority and in India, Uber exclusively partners with registered for-hire drivers who have undergone the commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, state-issued permits, and carry full commercial insurance."
Uber has a more stringent background check in the United States, which can be seen here.
The local Uber office did not have the GPS logs of the driver, and told the police that all the details were in the New York office, where the main server is located. The Delhi police has served a notice on Uber India, asking them to join the investigation.
"Uber also has a GPS trace and record of all trips that occur on the platform—information that has been shared with the authorities," said Tay. "We will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in their investigation to bring this crime to justice."
However, it was unexplained why Uber's software or manual processes did not flag a late night driver taking an altogether different route.
The 25-year-old survivor had booked the cab using the Uber app around 11 pm on Friday night, and had dozed off in the car while Yadav was driving the cab to her home in north Delhi. She woke a couple of hours later to find the cab stopped at a desolate place, and Yadav molesting her in the back seat, said cops. When she struggled, Yadav allegedly threatened to shove iron rods through her stomach, in a chilling reminder to the gang rape of a girl in a moving bus two years ago.
The survivor was then dropped off close to her home, after Yadav threatened to kill her if she reported the crime. She managed to take a picture of the cab while it was pulling away, which has proved to be a valuable clue for the police to track down Yadav.
Yadav is expected to be produced in Tis Hazari court on Monday.