Ubershame is more complicated than I thought

Mulling over the details had left me in absolute shock

pujab

Puja Bhattacharjee | December 8, 2014



I had been racking my brain all day today trying to pinpoint what exactly led to the tragic Uber cab incident in which a professional was raped by the driver of the cab she had hired through the aggregator. I made hectic calls to Meru, Mega and Easy cabs trying to find out, both as a concerned woman passenger and a curious journalist, what their safety policies are. In between I indulged in cursing Uber cabs for being so lackadaisical. But soon my anger and frustration turned towards the Delhi police when news started flashing that in spite of the past criminal record of the accused, they had issued a clean character certificate. A ‘ban the police’ cry ensued. Like so many other men and women, I got carried away by emotion.

As I was discussing the details of the case with friends, it suddenly struck me - the accused had spent seven months in jail for allegedly raping a woman but was later acquitted. In anger I had completely overlooked the fact that Shiv Kumar Yadav was acquitted, not convicted. So I started thinking, can we really blame either Uber or Delhi police for what happened. Uber followed the procedure for police verification and Delhi police issued him a clean character certificate based on record. So apparently nobody was at fault.

All this time I had been trying to find out what loopholes of the law led to this unfortunate incident. In fact Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in his statement has said, “We will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.” In light of the above, this is a very significant remark. The Ambedkar Nagar police station certificate mentions that Shiv Kumar Yadav is not involved in any criminal offence as on the date of the verification. Technically Yadav is an innocent man. My realisation leads me to believe that the entire system has collapsed. The system is very casual and superficial. There ought to have a column to mention whether Yadav was in any way involved in a case earlier along with the outcome. Given the nature of his previous accusation I am sure Uber would have rethought hiring him. Moreover, we do not have any centralised legal database of the convicted to crosscheck information from all over the country.

But this also opens the debate - what about men who had been framed and later acquitted? Why should they be discriminated against? The situation just went from sticky to stickier. Now I am speechless with shock. This is not an average ‘who is to blame’ or ‘what needs to change’ debate. It is a very complicated and complex matter to which I cannot see any immediate solution.

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