Police question Uber after India rape allegation

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Police question Uber after India rape allegation
Indian police escort Uber taxi driver and accused rapist Shiv Kumar Yadav (C) following his court appearance in New Delhi on December 8, 2014. Delhi's government on December 8 banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape, dealing a fresh blow to the reputation of online taxi service. The controversial US-based company 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. AFP PHOTO / CHANDAN KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Indian police escort Uber taxi driver and accused rapist Shiv Kumar Yadav (C) following his court appearance in New Delhi on December 8, 2014. Delhi's government on December 8 banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape, dealing a fresh blow to the reputation of online taxi service. The controversial US-based company 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. AFP PHOTO / CHANDAN KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian police escort Uber taxi driver and accused rapist Shiv Kumar Yadav (C, in black) following his court appearance in New Delhi on December 8, 2014. Delhi's government on December 8 banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape, dealing a fresh blow to the reputation of online taxi service. The controversial US-based company 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. AFP PHOTO / CHANDAN KHANNA (Photo credit should read Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 7: Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) shout slogan against Delhi Police, hold protest against the shocking rape by UBER Cab Driver at PHQ ITO, on December 7, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A 27-year-old woman was allegedly raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through Uber to return home from a dinner party in Gurgaon on Friday night. The incident took place at around 9:30 pm when the woman, who works for a finance company in Gurgaon, was headed back to her home in north Delhi's Inderlok area. A rape case has been registered against the accused Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32 at Sarai Rohilla police station under Sections 376 (rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of IPC. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
The Uber smartphone app, used to book taxis using its service, is pictured over a parking lot as auto-rickshaws (background) ply a road in the Indian capital New Delhi on December 7, 2014. An Uber taxi driver allegedly raped a 25-year-old passenger in the Indian capital before threatening to kill her, police said December 7, in a blow to the company's safety-conscious image. AFP PHOTO/TENGKU BAHAR (Photo credit should read TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian taxi driver drives an Ambassador cab with the distinctive yellow and black livery through the traffic in New Delhi, India, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. The Indian capital on Monday banned taxi-booking service Uber after a woman accused one of its drivers of raping her. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Protestors from All India Students Association (AISA) demonstrate outside the Delhi Police headquarters after a taxi driver from the international cab-booking service Uber allegedly raped a young woman Friday in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014. Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
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NEW DELHI (AP) - Indian police questioned an Uber executive Tuesday about the company's claim it conducts comprehensive background checks and a top official called for the taxi-booking service to be banned nationwide after one of its New Delhi drivers was accused of rape.

New Delhi police official Brijendra Kumar Yadav said there is a possibility of criminal charges against the company if police find evidence the taxi-hailing app misrepresented the safety of its service.

"What we are doing is trying to ascertain what knowledge Uber had of this person," Yadav said. It was the second day of questioning for Uber's general manager in India, Gagan Bhatia. Police were also investigating whether the driver may have presented false documents to Uber, according to Press Trust of India.

The driver, 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav, is being held by police and will appear again in a New Delhi court on Thursday. A 26-year-old woman who hired Yadav for a ride home from a dinner engagement Friday night accused him of rape.

The case, almost two years after a young woman was fatally gang raped on a bus in the capital, has renewed national anger over sexual violence in India and demands for more effort to ensure women's safety. It is also a blow for Uber, which has attracted praise and controversy around the world with a service based on hailing taxis from a smartphone app.

India's home minister called for all Indian states and territories to ban Uber following a ban on the service in New Delhi on Monday. Uber has faced restrictions in other countries after licensed taxi operators claimed the service was competing unfairly. Uber's drivers are independent contractors using private cars rather than licensed cabs.

Police said the chief suspicion against Uber comes from a statement on its web site saying "every ridesharing and livery driver is thoroughly screened through a rigorous process we've developed using constantly improving standards."

Yadav said this could not be the case because Uber's drivers did not have the special badges that police issue to taxi drivers proving they have cleared background checks. He said Uber and other services that operate online platforms linking drivers with customers are registered in India as technology businesses rather than transport companies.

"We need to find out if they have any formulated procedures to honor the promise" of a safe service, he said. "In this case, the victim was going home quite late at night. People don't take any extra safety precautions because they rely on the promise that is made to them."

The police official acknowledged, however, the possibility that a background check might not have uncovered anything problematic.

Police are still trying to verify the suspect's claims that he had been acquitted of rape charges in 2011, after spending seven months in jail. If acquitted, it would not be on his record.

Uber said in a statement it only uses registered for-hire drivers who have a valid license. It did not address the subject of police-issued badges.

India's Transportation Minister criticized the New Delhi ban on Uber, suggesting it was an unfair response to the tragedy and that some of the blame lies with the Indian system.

"Tomorrow, if something happens on a bus we can't ban that. It is the system that needs to be changed. Banning will only cause inconvenience to the people," Nitin Gadkari told reporters.

He called for a digitized system to track driver licenses and allow everyone's record to be viewed.

Uber, which had launched in 10 Indian cities including New Delhi and the financial capital Mumbai, is valued at about $40 billion after a recent investment by venture capitalists. The company, which takes a cut of fares, promises a quicker response time that is often less than 10 minutes. Drivers respond using their own Uber-provided smartphones mounted on the dashboard and follow a GPS map to an exact location.

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Follow Katy Daigle on Twitter at twitter.com/katydaigle

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