BENGALURU: An Ola cab driver who went to pick up a passenger was in for a rude shock when he was taken captive by his passengers. What’s worse is that the captors forced him to make a video call to his wife, threatened her to strip and planned to use the screen grabs to extort a ransom from him. He, however, managed to escape and finally lodged a complaint with Adugodi police in the city after the Channapatna police allegedly turned him away.
The cabbie’s ordeal began on Friday night when he received a booking from Bommasandra, asking him to come to a particular location mentioned in the booking order for pickup. There were four men. When the driver asked them what their destination would be, they started assaulting him without provocation. They allegedly attacked him with a screwdriver before abducting him. They forced him to sit in the rear seat with two men on either side while one of them took the steering wheel to drive towards Ramanagara, while another man sat in the co-driver seat. “Seeing that I had only Rs 9,009 in my online wallet, the gang forced me to call my nephew to ask him to transfer more money to my account,” the cabbie said.
“My nephew transferred Rs 22,000. Then they withdrew the money from an ATM and continued driving towards Mysuru on the highway. They booked a room in a lodge at Channapatna and locked me up for around five hours,” he said in his complaint. Later, the 38-year-old cabbie was asked to make a video call to his wife. When he did so, they snatched the mobile from him and told her to completely strip while threatening to kill her husband. Fearing for her husband’s life, the hapless woman obliged, only to learn they were taking a video of her. They threatened the cab driver that they would upload his wife’s pictures on social media platforms to socially humiliate him if he failed to pay up more ransom.
However, the driver, whose name has been withheld, managed to escape from the lodge on Saturday afternoon through the toilet window. Upon realising that he had escaped, his captors immediately checked out of the lodge fearing a police raid. But the cabbie’s troubles didn’t end there. Speaking to TNIE, the cabbie said, “When I approached Channapatna police, they declined to file an FIR but sent a policeman with me to reach the city. The staff at the station insisted that since the incident took place in Bengaluru City police limits, I should file a complaint with Adugodi police. Then I filed a case with Adugodi police narrating my ordeal. When I mentioned that the kidnappers made a video call to my wife and took obscene photos of her, the police told me not to mention that in the complaint as it is a question of my family’s reputation. Thus, I did not mention it on their advice.”
However, Ramanagara district Superintendent of Police Ramesh Kumar Banoth said, “I don’t think Channapatna police did not act in the case. They sent a policeman along with the cab driver to the city because they were concerned about his safety. Since it is a transferable case, they escorted him to the Bengaluru police so that immediate action could be taken.”
A senior police officer from Madiwala sub-division said the police must include IPC Sec 354C (any man who watches or captures an image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances) in the FIR as the gang made a video call to the wife of the cab driver and captured screenshots. “If the accused misused the photo of the woman or circulated, they should be booked under Sec 66 of the IT Act. These sections can be added in the FIR with the permission of the court,” he said.
Additional Commissioner of Police (East) Seemanth Kumar Singh said, “I am not aware that the driver’s wife was forced to strip by the gang. I will verify if the relevant section is not mentioned in the FIR. If any dereliction is found, I will take action against the officer concerned.”
Based on the complaint, police have registered a case of kidnapping, robbery and blackmail. The cabbie has told the police that the names of two of the culprits were Robin and Arun Bethni. Police have formed a special team to trace the gang. They have collected the cab booking details as well as the description of the four kidnappers.
Ola says customer blacklisted
A spokesperson for Ola told TNIE, “This is extremely unfortunate and we deeply regret the horrific experience the driver-partner and his family have undergone. We strongly condemn such acts of assault. The company blacklisted the customer’s Ola account immediately soon after the incident came to light. Meanwhile, we are in touch with the driver-partner to extend support to him and have been assisting the investigating authorities with all necessary information. We hold our driver-partners in high regard for the work they do as entrepreneurs and stand by them against humiliation or intimidation of any kind.”