• An Uber driver in New Delhi sexually harassed a woman passenger inside a cab last week
  • The woman tried to escape but the driver locked the car
  • She managed to unlock the car's door and jump out when the vehicle slowed down
  • The driver was not registered with Uber; company called it a case of 'identity theft'

A driver of app-based cab service Uber allegedly molested a female passenger after locking her up inside a car in India's capital New Delhi on March 9.

The driver, who is not registered with Uber, also threatened to harm the woman. He was arrested by the Delhi Police within hours of the incident.

"The accused driver has been identified as Sanjeev alias Sanju. He was driving the cab despite not being registered with Uber," deputy commissioner of police (north-west) Aslam Khan told the Hindustan Times.

Different driver than one shown in app

The woman, who is in her twenties, is an employee of a multinational company in Haryana's Sonepat district. She usually drives to her workplace but took a cab on March 9. The incident occurred when she was returning home.

She got into the cab around 7 pm but noticed that the vehicle did not have a yellow number plate. "She still took the car," the DCP said. Taxis in India sport yellow number plates. The woman also told the police that she found the driver's behavior suspicious right from the beginning of the ride.

"The driver called someone and spoke about meeting somewhere and drinking together. The woman immediately checked the driver's details on the Uber app and found that he was not the registered driver," the DCP explained.

The woman panicked when the driver took an isolated route, which is different from the one she usually takes while returning home. When the driver slowed down the car at a traffic junction near Mukarba Chowk, the victim tried to jump out the cab. However, Sanjeev immediately activated the central locking system of the vehicle.

The driver threatened to harm the woman and made sexual remarks at her. The woman tried to shout for help but that did not help in the running car.

At around 9 pm, when the car was nearing a CNG pump in Jahangirpuri, it slowed down a second time. This time, the woman managed to unlock the door and jump out of the car.

"The woman quickly dialed the police control room number even as the driver escaped with the car," Khan added.

The Uber driver molested the woman passenger inside the car. (Representational image)Reuters File

A case of sexual harassment, kidnapping, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation was registered and the accused driver was arrested within hours.

Investigations have revealed that the Maruti Suzuki Swift car had tinted glasses, illegal in India, and that Sanjeev did not have a driving license.

Uber has called it a case of "identity theft". The app-based car company also said that it will take strict action against the original driver for letting an unregistered driver access his account and take trips. 

How to avoid such safety incidents?

International Business Times India reached out to Rajeev Sunu, a visiting professor at the Christ University in Bangalore, for his comments on how Uber and other app-based cab services can ensure the safety of the women passengers. Sunu recently co-wrote an article ( Is Uber a taxi company or a technology company? ) on the topic for International Business Times India.

"Licensed Uber drivers outsourcing their driving work to less-paid, under-aged and unlicensed drivers is common across India, which must be stopped," Sunu said.

"It is Uber's failure to secure their applied technology and core mobile applications, that caused this. Technology should not have allowed a background-checked and cleared-Uber driver to let an unregistered driver to drive his car," Sunu added.

A few reports have said that Uber is considering installing SOS buttons in its vehicles or devising a panic button in its aps. These panic buttons will alert the local security authorities and ensure a speedy help for passengers in emergency situations. 

Sexual harassment by Uber drivers not new

Uber has had similar sexual harassment cases filed against its drivers in the past. 

In 2014, an Uber driver had raped a woman passenger in Delhi. The accused Shiv Kumar Yadav was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2015.

However, in July 2017, the victim sued the ride-hailing company for allegedly mishandling her medical records 

On October 19, 2017, a 25-year-old woman in Hyderabad alleged that an Uber driver masturbated at her in a moving car. Later, the app-based cab service company fired the accused driver.