Late on 7 June, Recode reported that Eric Alexander, president of business, Asia Pacific at Uber is “no longer with the company”. While it isn’t immediately clear what led to Alexander’s exit, Recode, quoting multiple sources, said that Alexander had obtained medical records of the woman who had been raped in an Uber car in New Delhi in 2014. To quote specifically from the Recode story:
“While the company was publicly apologetic, some top executives apparently had trouble believing that the incident was entirely true, sources said, including Alexander. He was already in India and investigated the claims — it’s not clear if he did this of his own volition or was directed to do so. It is also not clear if he obtained these files legally. Alexander then brought the files to [Travis] Kalanick and [Emil] Michael, who read them, said sources. This is highly unusual since they were records related to a criminal investigation. Still, soon after, all three began to raise the prospect that Ola — Uber’s prime competitor in India — was behind the incident to sabotage the company, sources said.”
Alexander’s departure was confirmed by an Uber India spokesperson, who did not go into the specifics of the circumstances surrounding his exit.
Recode’s story raises several ethical and legal questions about Uber’s handling of the 2014 Delhi rape case. Remember, this was the case where Shiv Kumar Yadav, an Uber driver, raped a woman executive in New Delhi on the night of 5 December 2014. Yadav is now serving out a rigorous imprisonment for life sentence in jail.
At The Ken, we followed up on Recode’s story, to get to the bottom of some of the questions and implications of this development.
Did Uber break any law in India by accessing the medical report of the victim?
There are two stages to criminal cases in India. These are contained under the Code of Criminal Procedure which is a statute that defines the process and procedure. The first stage is investigation handled by the police and the second is the trial of the offence which takes place before a court.
Let’s look at investigation first. There, Section 164A of the Code of Criminal Procedure contemplates the medical examination of a victim of rape. The creation of the document itself. This report is under the custody of the police officer who is investigating the committing of the offence. Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure contemplates the report which is filed in court. Section 173(7) states, “(7) Where the police officer investigating the case finds it convenient so to do, he may furnish to the accused copies of all or any of the documents referred to in sub-section (5).”
Focus on the persons who have access to the medical report at the time of the police investigation.