December 8, 2014 / 5:32 AM / 3 years ago

Indian Uber driver accused of rape previously arrested for assault

NEW DELHI, Dec 8 (Reuters) - An Uber taxi driver will appear in an Indian court on Monday accused of raping a young female passenger, as the popular U.S. online ride-hailing service comes under fire for hiring a man who was arrested for a sexual assault three years ago.

Indian police said they were considering legal action against the online taxi service for failing to run background checks amid reports the government may cancel the company's license to operate in New Delhi, where the alleged attack took place.

"Every violation by Uber will be evaluated and we will go for legal recourse," said Madhur Verma, deputy commissioner with the Delhi police.

The attack is the latest to draw attention to the dangers faced by women in the world's second-most populous nation. Even after the enactment of new laws imposing stricter penalties and establishing fast-track courts, India is struggling to tame attitudes that leave women vulnerable to harassment and rape.

The arrested driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, will appear in court at about midday, Verma said. He was arrested for raping a woman three years ago but was later acquitted, he said.

Police said the 32-year-old driver dropped the woman home after attacking her and warned her not to inform the authorities. She managed to note the driver's number and take a photograph of his car, they said.

Police accuse Uber of failing to check whether the driver had a clean police record or had a satellite location device in his car.

The sexual assault happened two years after the fatal gang rape of another young woman taking public transport in New Delhi. That case led to nationwide protests and forced the government to address demands for heavier sentences for rape.

In a chilling reminder of the 2012 bus attack, the victim of Friday night's assault told police the driver threatened to insert a rod in her genitals, the Indian Express reported.

Delhi's government may cancel the company's license for failing to operate without the correct permit, the newspaper said.

Uber said in a statement on Sunday that safety is its first priority and it was continuing to assist police.

"This is an abhorrent crime," Uber said. "Our thoughts remain with the victim who has shown tremendous courage under the circumstances."

Uber has faced critical news coverage over its driver screening in the United States, and has apologised for comments by an executive who suggested "digging up dirt" on journalists investigating the firm.

That has not stopped the San Francisco-based firm from raising investment that values it at $40 billion, reflecting the perceived potential of its expansion into high-growth markets like India. (Writing By Andrew MacAskill; Editing by John Chalmers and Jeremy Laurence)

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