Defense in Uber Delhi rape trial seeks to re-examine prosecution witnesses

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Delhi Uber Driver Rape

The trial of alleged rapist and 32-year-old New Delhi Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was scheduled to hear closing arguments from both sides today. But as has been the case throughout this saga, an unexpected new controversy could delay things once again.

The latest tactic by the defense is an application submitted on Monday requesting a re-examination of some prosecution witnesses. Yadav is now being represented by Advocate Dharmender Misra, who claims that his client’s previous attorney who began the trial, a novice who had passed the bar just months before, blew his duties so badly as to deny the accused of a “proper defense.”

“It is apparent that the accused did not have sufficient time to prepare his legal defense and everything was rushed in the case,” Misra says. “Justice hurried is justice buried.” He further cites “fabrications, serious manipulations, plantation, falsification, and manufacturing of and tampering with evidence,” that require a second cross-examination of all witnesses to expose.

Misra claims that Yadav’s previous representation incriminated his own client during cross examination. This includes asking the investigating officer during cross-examination about Yadav’s history of previous sexual assault allegations – he was once jailed for assault and attempted rape – without addressing their eventual outcome. Yadav was eventually released and cleared of charges.

Not surprisingly, the prosecution has opposed the latest motion, stating, “A change of defense counsel is not a ground for recall of witnesses.” Judge Baweja has promised to rule on the issue on February 18.

This isn’t the first time that Yadav and his representation have attempted to delay the proceedings. HIs counsel’s earlier request for a one-month adjournment was denied, with Judge Kaveri Baweja citing the accused’s own right to a speedy trial. The fast-track trial began on January 15, approximately a month after the alleged December 5 rape incident. Yadav stands accused of rape, causing grievous bodily harm and endangering the life of a woman, kidnapping, and criminal intimidation.

In the months since the rape accusations were first made public, Uber has announced enhanced safety and security procedures in India, while also agreeing to more stringent guidelines mandated by the Delhi Transportation Ministry. The company is currently in the process of applying for a Radio Taxi license in the country, which would permit it to operate as a taxi aggregator and dispatch service. Uber is paying its drivers as much as $ 1.5 million per month while they are off the road. The company is also facing a lawsuit in California brought by the alleged (and unnamed) victim of this incident.

It’s seemingly in Uber’s interest, as well as that of the New Delhi community that this trial conclude quickly and without further incident. Then again, any lingering doubt over the validity of the end result, such as one tainted by an incompetent defense, falls short of this goal.

[Image via manoramaonline]

  1. Uber is a technology platform that is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber’s rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.

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Uber could face US lawsuit over alleged rape by driver in Delhi

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Uber’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year could be about to get even worse. Call it karma for the company that has proudly flouted regulations, passenger safety, and the concerns of its drivers (err, contractors, err partners).

According to a new report by the Guardian, the female victim of an alleged rape by a New Delhi Uber driver plans to sue the company in US court. Making matters worse for the company, the unidentified woman has engaged high profile New York litigator Douglas Wigdor. Wigdor is most well known for recently representing hotel maid and alleged assault victim Nafissatou Diallo and securing a $ 6 million settlement from Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He also previously took on the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in a $ 1.4 billion sexual discrimination, securing an undisclosed settlement for his group of female clients.

There will be two primary questions to be answered before Uber is forced to respond in US courts. The first is whether Wigdor can establish jurisdiction for the case in the US given the fact that that Uber’s policies around driver screening and passenger safety are set in its San Francisco headquarters. The Guardian cites precedent for such a decision, including a case where Pfizer was successfully sued in the US over accusations that it conducted covert drug trials in Nigeria.

The second questions is whether Wigdor can convince US courts that Uber was in some way negligent in misleading its users about the safety of its service and the types of licenses and background checks that its drivers hold.

The case in India is one of a growing number of sexual assault and other criminal complaints against Uber drivers in recent months, including rape and kidnapping accusations pending against one Boston driver and two Chicago drivers.

To Uber’s defense, it’s sadly not uncommon for traditional taxi drivers to stand accused of similar violent behavior. The problem for Uber, and the issue for which the company could find itself paying dearly in the Delhi case, is that it has repeatedly claimed to complete extensive background checks on its drivers, only for that to be proven untrue time and again. The accused driver in India, for example, had previously been jailed for rape and accused of prior passenger assaults.

Given the nature of the incident and Uber’s high profile (not to mention valuation and cash position), a judgement finding it negligent could be expensive indeed. Should Wigdor get his jurisdiction and the case move toward trial it’s a good bet that a (likely undisclosed) settlement would be quickly forthcoming. Then again, even without an admission of guilt, such an outcome would set a dangerous precedent indeed as Uber seeks to manage its liability in the face of global expansion plans.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that accused Uber driver and alleged rapist Shiv Kumar Yadav was formally charged in a New Delhi court on Tuesday under what’s being described as a fast-track trial. Further, authorities are “still investigating the possibility of criminal charges against the company for allegedly misrepresenting the safety of its service,” according to a local police officer.

Wigdor tells the Guardian:

I can confirm that I have been retained by the young lady who was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi, India, last December. Having met extensively with her and her family while in Delhi, I can only compliment them for their bravery and fortitude during this very difficult time. We will use all of our resources to vindicate my client’s rights, hold those responsible for their actions and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Surely that promise will give Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his ever-supportive investors something to sweat about.

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