LIFE BEHIND BARS: Former Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav (black top) was handed a life sentence by an Indian court after being found guilty of raping a passenger in December 2014. Image: AFP / Chandan Khanna
New Delhi - An Indian court on Tuesday jailed a driver of US-based ride-hailing company Uber for life for raping a passenger, 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 in October of the rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation of the woman, who had hailed a ride home from a party in Delhi last December 2014.
Yadav got his job with Uber with fake references, enabling him to hide his criminal record. The firm, valued at $50 billion in 2015, was banned in Delhi as a result and has only recently regained the right to operate after tightening driver checks.
Judge Kaveri Baweja told the court."Keeping in view the facts and evidences in the case, I sentence Shiv Kumar Yadav, to rigorous life imprisonment."
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.
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.
Yadav's lawyer will launch an appeal
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,DK 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.
Uber banned in Delhi
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.
In October, the federal government released guidelines to regulate online taxi companies, saying they should do stringent security checks and not contract anyone convicted of a "cognizable offence" under India's criminal laws.