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29 February 2024

Indian allegedly raped by Uber driver to sue


A high-profile American lawyer on Friday said he has been hired to sue taxi-hailing firm Uber in US courts on behalf of an Indian woman allegedly raped by one of its drivers in New Delhi.

Douglas Wigdor, who represented the hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in 2012, said he had met the 25-year-old woman and her family in Delhi following the incident last month.

"I can confirm that I have been retained by the young lady who was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi last December," Wigdor said in an email to AFP.

"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."

The authorities in Delhi banned Uber from operating in the Indian capital over the alleged rape, accusing the company of misleading customers and not conducting adequate background checks on drivers.

The woman meanwhile appeared in a trial court in Delhi on Friday, dressed in an all-encompassing burqa, reflecting the stigma attached to rape survivors in a patriarchal society.

Journalists have been barred from the court-room proceedings but a prosecution lawyer said she had stuck to the initial statement she made before the police.

"She denied the defence's suggestion that she was not raped," Atul Shrivastava, the public prosecutor, told reporters outside the courtroom.

The driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, allegedly attacked the woman as she was on her way home from dinner in December.
Yadav has pleaded not guilty to the charges of rape, kidnap and criminal intimidation.

The case has once again raised the issue of women's safety in India and particularly in Delhi, which has been dubbed the "rape capital" after a string of high-profile sex assaults.

The fatal gang-rape of a medical student two years ago on a bus in Delhi triggered mass protests and led to a tightening of laws on sex crimes.

The decision of the woman in the latest case to sue Uber comes as a fresh blow for the San Francisco-based startup which has been slapped with a number of legal cases in the US and several other countries.

New York-based Wigdor represented hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo in a sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn.

Criminal charges were eventually dropped and Strauss-Kahn settled a civil suit brought by the maid by paying her undisclosed damages, which reportedly exceeded $1.5 million.