New Delhi, Jul 18, 2019 : P Rajagopal, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants has died a week after he surrendered at the Madras High Court to start a life term for the 2001 kidnapping and murder of an employee. On July 10, 72-year-old Rajagopal had arrived in an ambulance with an oxygen mask strapped to his face after the Supreme Court turned down a plea to delay his sentence on medical grounds, NDTV reported.
Rajagopal had been admitted to a private hospital after his surrender.
Rajagopal had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2009 but had to surrender by July 7. He had moved the Supreme Court again on Monday, saying he had been hospitalised and needed more time.
In 2004, P Rajagopal was convicted in the kidnapping and murder of an employee, Santhakumar. A local court had sentenced Rajagopal and eight others involved in the murder to 10 years in prison. Five years later the Madras High Court upheld the verdict and increased the sentence to life in prison, a punishment then upheld by the Supreme Court in March this year.
The prosecution had argued that Rajagopal plotted the murder of Santhakumar so he could marry his wife, Jeevajothi, believing that she would bring him even greater success.
In response to the plea for more time on health grounds, the court had said: "If he was so ill, why did he not indicate illness even for one day during hearings of his appeal?"
The case, which has attracted considerable attention both in India and abroad, goes back to the 1990s, when Rajagopal wanted to marry Jeevajothi, the daughter of an assistant manager at Saravana Bhavan’s Chennai branch, reportedly on the advice of his astrologer.
At the time Rajagopal already had two wives and Jeevajothi, then in her twenties, had refused his proposal. She married Santakumar in 1999. The prosecution told the court Rajagopal threatened the couple in 2001 and demanded they call off the marriage.
Days after the couple went to the police, Santhakumar was kidnapped and killed. The Saravana Bhavan employee’s body was found at Perumalmalai in the Kodaikanal forests.
Saravana Bhavan, a well-known restaurant chain, has outlets in 20 countries including the US, the UK, France and Australia.