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Uber driver charged in rape case

An Indian court has charged an Uber cab driver with the rape, kidnap and criminal intimidation of a 25-year-old woman who hired the taxi service for a ride home from a dinner engagement last month.

The trial of 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav is likely to begin in New Delhi later this week in a fast-track court set up in 2013 to bypass India's lumbering judicial system.

The case renewed national anger over India's chronic sexual violence that erupted two years ago when a young woman was fatally gang raped on a bus in the capital.

It also dealt a blow to Uber, which has attracted global praise and controversy with a service based on hailing rides from a smartphone app.

Yadav has been in custody since the woman filed a police complaint alleging he assaulted her after she hired him for a ride home on December 5.

Authorities are still investigating the possibility of criminal charges against Uber for allegedly misrepresenting the safety of its service, police official Brijendra Kumar Yadav said.

"That is a separate case, and will take some time," he said, without giving details.

Uber, valued at 40 billion US dollars (£26 billion), faces multiple legal and regulatory challenges as it expands in the United States and elsewhere, including a lawsuit in California alleging that it exaggerates its driver background checks.

After the rape case in New Delhi, Indian police questioned an Uber official about the company's claim that it conducts comprehensive background checks. The company was also banned in the capital as well as in the southern technology hub of Hyderabad and the entire southern state of Karnataka.

Uber security chief Philip Cardenas pledged last month to "build new safety programmes and intensify others", according to a blog entry on the San Francisco-based company's website on the same day that an Uber driver in Massachusetts was arraigned on charges including rape and kidnapping.

Mr Cardenas said the changes would include creating teams that can rapidly respond to safety-related reports and new ways to screen would-be drivers.

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