The Uber cab rape incident – An alarm for introspection of laws on crutches!!

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By Naman Verma, Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow

The Uber cab rape incident – An alarm for introspection of laws on crutches!!

Another rape incident in the national capital which somehow muddled through to get acknowledged by the people and the system of this country left a blemish of ignominy on the conscience of humanity. As the incident somehow caught the media attention just like the Nirbhaya incident of 2013, as usual it too met with clamor. Where many such incidents go unaddressed and fail even to make it to the police diaries, what makes these two incidents distinct from the others is an issue of concern. Either it is such that the society we live in has become so barefaced that only blatant acts of cruelty and barbarism arrest its conscience and that it has habituated itself with the fact that unless crimes of such nature are not committed so overtly, the other inconspicuous incidents though no acceptable, are nothing but a corollary to the flaw in laws of the country, or it is purely the inability and the insufficiency of both the law and the government to curb the menace of these crimes.

In so called ‘democracy’ after such overt and blatant mishaps, in an orthodox manner a series of demonstrations by the common mass is usually witnessed where the anger that vests in the heart of community becomes quite evident. It is however not condemned, but it needs to be used in a much effective and orchestrated manner and must not be merely an outcome of emotional outbursts, as these outrages tend to end up ad interim.

The incident which took place on 5th December, 2014 struck the conscience of the people because a cab, a mode of transport which has become a part and parcel of the life of the people to which they have become accustomed to , ended up being a menacing instrument capable of being used quite effortlessly for committing such heinous crimes like one the nation just witnessed.

A 27 year old woman working in an MNC who allegedly got raped by a Uber cab driver when all she wanted was to reach her home safely. Many who criticize and blame the victim for dozing off in the backseat of the cab which gave an undue advantage to the culprit are unfortunately strayed from the point in concern. The fact that any individual whether a male or female must take certain precautions does not dwindles away absolutely and utterly but it merely occupies a peripheral significance, with respect the crime which has been committed.

What seems to be in concern is the void that exists due to lack of regulatory framework. Uber is an application based transport network which provides taxi services, a company based in California whose operations are widespread across the globe. The police investigation depicts negligence on part of the company as it failed to have police verification for the driver thereby making no background checks. Also the driver did not have a driving license issued by Delhi Transportation Authority. Furthermore, it failed to notice that the culprit was not from Delhi and also it was a backlash on the company as the cabs which were providing the services to the customers through Uber had no GPS attached to them, and that the only link the service provider had was a smart phone application which the accused exited after the incident.[1]

Any vehicle used for carrying goods or passengers for commercial purpose essentially requires the permission of the state government under the provisions of Motor Vehicles Act 1988 and rules formed there under.[2] Government has revealed that Uber was carrying out its business in contravention of Motor Vehicles Act 1988[3]. It is explicitly made very clear in section 66 & section 69 of M V Act that a permit from RTA is required when a person wishes to use a transport vehicle carrying passengers. Under section 76 the application for private service vehicle is also provided where RTA on application made to it grants a private service vehicle permit. Another gross violation was that the cab had an All India Tourist Permit but was running as a radio taxi. As per AITP “Tourist Vehicle” should have been painted on both sides and a board of AITP in block letters above yellow Registration number plate in front of the car. A much of distinction exists between radio taxies and other application based networking cab companies, the former being regulated by Radio taxi policy of 2006 according to which a radio taxi must obtain a license from government along with round the clock call centre and GPS facility. Moreover, only those drivers who have been issued transport badges by transport authority after police verification can be hired for such services. But the incredulity is that Uber is not a radio taxi service in any manner and is just a taxi booking application, and by no means provide a transport service.

In this appalling juxtaposition of uncanny situation and void in norms, Uber doesn’t happen to own any cars and is a mere link between customers and taxi operators acting as an aggregator, thereby making it a free bird, not liable under the prevailing laws.

The government banning the Uber and other non licensed application based taxi companies can be viewed as a knee-jerked reaction to pacify the outrageous mob. What we fail to understand is that patronizing an orthodox method of ban would only result in the issue not being nursed and such monstrosity of crimes would only culminate into abomination for the law and system, that doesn’t lead to a solution. The answer to such problem doesn’t lie in lurking around but creating stringent austere laws. Debates on probable punishments like life imprisonment, death penalty or castration for that matter would be too frivolous and akin to leaving the problem as it is. It has never been the ultimate aim of the lawmakers to discharge punishments to the convict but the entire idea is to subjugate prevention in the society where individuals and organizations adhere to the laws , minimizing free platform to such anti social elements, though the prior would always remain an eminent process in light of imparting justice.

The nerve sensitizing Nirbhaya incident still stands in the same place as it was a year ago; the recommendations of Justice J S Verma committee are still being debated. It is the laxity of the system and the void in law that aids the crime to thrive. Pulling the strings cannot expect a cent percent aperture free system but the menace can be curbed and restricted to a great extent. The nation faced a void that still exists due to the absence of Law on this point. Although, the authorities should have given a thought on this before allowing such application based taxi services in the country which they didn’t because of their careless and laidback attitude, the need of the hour is to fill up the void. The technological advancement must be dealt with by the law in those aspects where it falls short. Where banning such application based service provider would be of little help, transparency must be brought in as to make sure that the accountability is not negotiated.

Sources:

[1] Financialexp.com/article/companies-uber-cabs-drive-allegedly-rapes-delhi-woman-company-reacts/16579/

[2] Delhigovt.nic.in/newdelhi/dept/transport/tr8.asp

[3] Indianexpress.com/article/India/India-others/banned in delhi-facing- national-shutdown-Uber-blames system/