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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

On a stretcher, Saravana Bhavan founder surrenders to serve time for murder

Sarvana Bhavan founder Rajagopal was first found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in 2004. The judge had found him guilty of ordering the abduction and murder of his employee three years earlier to be able to marry his widow.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2019 13:37 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
The founder of South Indian food chain 'Saravana Bhavan' P Rajagopal arrived on a stretcher to surrender before a sessions court to serve a life term, in Chennai on Tuesday evening. (PTI Photo)
The founder of South Indian food chain 'Saravana Bhavan' P Rajagopal arrived on a stretcher to surrender before a sessions court to serve a life term, in Chennai on Tuesday evening. (PTI Photo) (PTI)
         

P Rajagopal, the 72-year-old founder of Saravana Bhavan global chain of restaurants, arrived at a Chennai court in an ambulance to serve his jail term for murder after the country’s top court refused to accept his request to let him stay out any longer.

“Surrender immediately,” Justice NV Ramana of the country’s top court had told his lawyer who wanted more time for the businessman to surrender on grounds that he was ill. Rajagopal’s dramatic entry in an ambulance is also seen to message that the businessman’s concern for his health was genuine. He was carried inside the court premises on a stretcher.

Just hours earlier, a bench of three judges had trashed claims of poor health as a good reason to let him stay out of jail for some more time. “If he was so ill, why did he not choose to indicate the same during the hearing of his appeal here?” Justice NV Ramana shot back when senior lawyer Kapil Sibal made the request on Rajagopal’s behalf.

The Chennai Egmore Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s court ordered him to be sent to jail. He will be put through a medical examination as is the norm.

Rajagopal was first found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in 2004. The judge had found him guilty of ordering the abduction and murder of his employee three years earlier to be able to marry his widow.

Rajagopal had appealed against the verdict in the high court which concluded in 2009 that he had been sentenced too lightly and ordered him to serve a life term in jail. He appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court.

In March this year, the top court upheld the life term for the businessman who had started out as an employee at a utensils store before moving on to open a grocery store. He later went on to become the owner of a large restaurant chain.

Rajagopal was given 100 days to surrender by the top court. The deadline expired on 7 July.

The murder case dates back to 2001 when Rajagopal, who has been known to be dressed in white with a strip of sandalwood paste on his forehead, ordered the abduction and murder of his employee Prince Shantakumar. The body was buried in the municipal burial grounds of Kodaikanal Hills.

An astrologer had recommended that he take Jeevajyothi – an employee’s daughter who had married another of his employee Shantakumar - as his own.

Rajagopal had made repeated attempts to court Jeevajyothi and didn’t stop even after she married. When her husband was killed, Jeevajyothi raised a stink and accused Rajagopal of the murder. A probe led the police to the burial site and the body was exhumed. The case was tried by a fast track court.

First Published: Jul 09, 2019 20:10 IST

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