This article has been written by Aayushi Kiran from The ICFAI University, Dehradun and has been curated by Yashasvi Kanodia from NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai.
Nowadays, Ola, Uber, and other cab services have made commuting easy and hassle-free. Late at night when public transport is not available, many of us prefer traveling by these cabs. In urban areas, most people rely on cabs and cab drivers to cover a short distance, and therefore our commute life is dependent on cab services. Using these cab services becomes a necessity for those people who have just shifted to a new town or city away from their hometown either for work purposes or study purposes. Rhe most convenient way to commute from their workplace to their home is by using cabs like Ola or Uber.
Despite considering all the risks and factors of low safety measures, a person (especially women) has to opt at last for Ola or Uber because of the need and interdependency on the vehicle as a means for transportation. As the booking of these cabs is done online and within a very short time phase, it is next to impossible to know much about the cab drivers as it is based on a random choice. Therefore, it is highly advised to be extremely vigilant while traveling alone at odd hours.
On a regular basis, we hear the headlines such as:-
In Bengaluru ‘Cab driver arrested for misbehaving with female passenger’
Uber cab driver arrested for misbehaving with a woman passenger
Hyderabad: Cab driver misbehaves with a woman arrested
In the headlines stated above the common word found is either ‘WOMAN’ or ‘FEMALE’, and to no doubt, women have been easy prey for these cab drivers. But the main questions are – till how long will this continue? And despite the laws made in our nation and punishment levied upon these misbehaving cab drivers how dare they repeat these acts?
If A Cab Driver Misbehaves With A Woman Who Is Alone And Tries To Snatch Her Belongings Forcefully He Will Be Made Liable Under
Section 509 of IPC – According to this Section “whoever, intends to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy (a fundamental right) of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.
In the case of State of Punjab v. Major Singh, the Supreme Court ruled that the act of outraging the modesty of a woman is not limited to any particular age group and that a woman’s modesty lies in her being female by sex and therefore, a woman possesses modesty from the time she is born as a girl.
Section 503 and 506 of IPC – Section 503 defines criminal intimidation. The elements required to complete any offense under this Section are:
Threatening a person with any injury-
to his person, reputation or property
The intention with which the threat made-
To cause alarm to that person, or
To cause that person to do any act, he is not legally bound to do for avoiding the execution of threat, or
To cause that person to do something he is legally entitled to do to avoid the threat that may arise if he did it.
Section 506, states about the punishment of Criminal Intimidation:
The provision of criminal intimidation is divided into two parts-
In simple cases, the offender is liable to be punished for the imprisonment of two years or a fine or both. The offense is classified as non- cognizable, bailable, and compound offense under the trial of any Magistrate.
The cases which involve death or grievous hurt, destruction of property, or any illegal act which attribute unchastity to a woman, the prescribed punishment is simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term of seven years, or a fine or both. The offense here is classified as non-cognizable, bailable, and non- compoundable offences, the trial is carried under the Magistrate of First class. It is very important that for an offense to fall under the second category, the threat is either causing death or grievous hurt.
For example- Ms. Arora booked a cab from Airport to her home and when she asked the cab driver to switch on the AC, the driver refused to, snapped the car and said that the car did not belongs to her father and abused her verbally and even humiliated her and when she said to stop the car, the driver hit her and tried to snatch her belonging. Based on the complaint, the police registered a case of criminal intimidation and arrested the driver.
Section 354 of IPC – This Section of IPC criminalizes any act by any person which amounts to assault or use of force against a woman with the intention or knowledge that will outrage her modesty. For such offenses, there can be simple or rigorous imprisonment of 2 years, fine, or both.
Section 354(D) of IPC – Stalking is therefore defined as
Any man who follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or
Any man who monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, Commits the offense of stalking;
Anyone who commits the offense of stalking is punished on first conviction with imprisonment up to 3 years and with a fine, and for first conviction up to 5 years and with a fine for a second or subsequent conviction.
For example:- A woman hired the cab service for commuting from her office to her home, it was stated by the women that the driver kept looking at her through the rear-view mirror and kept whistling. The cab driver misbehaved with her and also indulged in hurling abuses at other motorists who overtook his car. After the woman reached her destination he marched behind her into the building lobby towards the elevator where he made lewd gestures at her. At now the contact number was saved with him he began calling her and started harassing. Even though the woman blocked her number, the cab driver tried contacting him from another number and said abusive words against her. Experiencing this for over a week the woman filed a complaint against the cab driver. It was traced that a similar complaint has been lodged against him. The cab driver was booked under Section 354 (D) of IPC, which is bailable in nature.
Section 378 and Section 379 of IPC– According to Section 378 if anyone intends to dishonestly take any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent, moves that property in order to such taking is said to commit theft. Snatching anything from any person is also included in the ambit of Section 378. Section 379 states that whoever commits theft shall be punished for imprisonment of either description for a term of three years, or fine or both.
Example- If a cab driver misbehaves with a woman who is alone and tries to snatch her belonging the cab driver will be made liable for snatching and theft under sec 379 of IPC as well under Section 354 for theft and outraging the modesty of a woman.
Safety measures women should opt while traveling alone in Cabs:-
Send The Cab Details To People You Trust – Cabs services send an automatic generated SMS about the car number, car type, driver name, and driver’s phone number. No sooner did you receive the SMS, forward it either to your family member or to the people you trust.
Ask For A Photo Id Proof From The Driver Before Boarding –Photo ID proof may include driving licence, company ID, or any authentic ID proof.
Keep An Eye On The GPS -Most of these cabs have a GPS tracker that can help your reliable source to track where your cab has reached or how far away you are from home. For example, Uber has an option where you can select up to five emergency contacts. Select them and then request a ride. Mostly prefer to do this at the beginning of the journey or anytime in between. In case your cab does not have a GPS system, you can also share your GPS location from your phone to your family.
Share Cab – Now a days Share cab is the new option is available. Using this option one can share their ride with other people travelling in the same direction. This option is inserted to make sure you are not travelling alone. Simultaneously this feature provides you with the details of your co-travellers.
Prefer A Familiar Route – You can always tell the driver to take which turn to take and which to skip. This will ensure your safety and you will know where you are going exactly. If you are using that path for the first time pay attention to the road and keep on noting down landmarks and turns that you think are important.
Talk To Someone Continuously – Keep posting your family or your friend about where you have reached and how long you think you will take to reach home. Just make sure that you do not divulge any private or personal details and do not assume that the driver does not understand what you are speaking.
Keep Few Requisites – Keep a pepper spray, deodorant or a small knife and use it when you feel that despite your repetitive warning
Never Fall Asleep – While you are travelling, especially in the night. You might lose track of your route, which can put you at risk.
Gone are the days when we had to give-in arbitrary prices to the auto and taxi drivers. Today, working women across the country would prefer a pick-up, instead of taking a rickshaw or taxi from the streets. Ola and Uber’s rides are considered to be safe means of journey for women. Receiving the driver and vehicle details beforehand, receiving a link that can track the ride is so reassuring, yet sometimes there is a set of possible outcomes that may arise from a system that provides no transparency or accountability.
India has struggled to bring information technology-based transportation aggregators like Uber and Ola under regulation, and one can only wait to see if the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill manages to usher in some changes to the situation. Over the last few years, popular cab services have faced scrutiny for the continued risk to women’s safety and several cases have been reported of harassment, sexual advances, and rape, which bring into question the safety measures implemented by such agencies. Therefore, each and every woman should take proper measures while traveling and opting for these services.