A former driver with ride-sharing app Uber has been handed a sentence of life in jail for the rape of a passenger in India last December. The prosecutor asked for a 'message' to society about the consequences of assault.
An Indian Uber driver was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday for sexually assaulting a young female passenger. Last month, the same New Delhi court had convicted the defendant, Shiv Kumar Yadav, on charges of rape, abduction, intimidation and causing bodily harm.
Last December, Yadav had abducted and assaulted his 25-year-old passenger as she returned home from dinner with friends. The case reignited fears of sexual violence in the Indian capital and resulted in a ban on the California-based car-sharing service throughout the city.
Prosecutor: defendant had a criminal history
Asking the court to hand down a life sentence, the maximum possible penalty, Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava said that the trial needed to send a "message" to the parts of society "where a person cannot even think of committing such an offence."
"She is not the only victim, rather the whole society is the victim," said Shrivastava, adding that 32-year-old Yadav had a "criminal history" of assaulting women dating back to 2001. Although he was never previously convicted, Uber has taken considerable flak for not properly vetting drivers.
Yadav's lawyer, Dharmender Kumar Mishra, argued that his client was a changed man, and the sole breadwinner for his impoverished family.
"On the day of his conviction, he cried... he had gone to the extent of wanting to commit suicide," Mishra said.
Judge Kaveri Baweja agreed with the prosecution however, handing down a sentence of "rigorous imprisonment, which shall mean imprisonment till natural death," prompting tears from Yadav and his wife, who was in court with their two daughters.
Mishra said his client would appeal the sentence at a higher court.
Thousands of assaults recorded in Delhi
Yadav had been put on trial in one of the fast-track courts introduced in 2013 after the fatal gang rape of a young student on a Delhi bus, and his case highlighted the city's growing reputation for sexual violence.
India recorded some 36,735 rape cases in 2014, and nearly 2,100 of them were from Delhi alone. Experts have suggested that these numbers are merely the tip of the iceberg, as many victims do not report the assaults.
As the Uber ban has proven difficult to enforce in India's sprawling capital, the federal government has introduced a number of guidelines - including installing emergency alarms – for all app-based ride-hailing companies.
es/jm (AFP, dpa)