Supreme Court upholds life term of Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal for murdering employee 18 years ago

Eighteen years after the abduction and murder of a former employee, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the conviction and life term of P Rajagopal, owner of the Saravana Bhavan group of hotels. He has been asked to surrender by 7 July. Popularly called the 'dosa king' (in reference to his chain of hotels that sell South India vegeterian food), Rajagopal was convicted for abducting and murdering an employee, Prince Shantakumar, in October 2001, so that he could marry the latter's wife.

In 2004, a special court had awarded Rajagopal and five of his accomplices – Daniel, Karmegan, Hussain, Kasi Viswanathan and Patturangan –  10-year rigorous imprisonment. Later, in 2009, the Madras High Court convicted him to life imprisonment after finding the case "a grave one done with a clear intention".

 Supreme Court upholds life term of Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal for murdering employee 18 years ago

File image of P Rajagopal. Wikimedia Commons

However, he had challenged the HC verdict and was subsequently granted bail the same year by a Supreme Court bench of Justices BN Agrawal and GS Singhvi . The HC had also imposed a fine of Rs 55 lakh on Rajagopal, including Rs 50 lakh as compensation to Jeevanjothi.

Saravana Bhavan has outlets in 20 countries including the US, the UK, France and Australia. There are 25 restaurants across India.

What is the case?

The incident dates back to the 1990s when Rajagopal wanted to marry Jeevajothi, daughter of Ramasamy, an assistant manager at the company's Chennai branch. Rajagopal already had two wives at that time and Jeevajothi objected to the marriage. She married Shantakumar in 1999, a former tuition teacher who had joined the company.

According to the prosecution, Rajagopal had threatened the couple to break off the marriage but the couple refused to pay heed. A police complaint was later filed on 1 October, 2001 by the couple who said they were abducted by Rajagopal's men and intimidated.

Days later,  Shantakumar was abducted again taken to Kodaikanal. His body was found Perumalmalai in the Kodaikanal forests. A chargesheet was filed under section 302 (murder), 364 (abduction) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code. After the case became sensational, Rajagopal had surrendered on 23 November, 2001 but was granted bail on 15 July, 2003. He was also accused of attempting to bribe Jeevajothi with Rs six lakh.

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Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 15:29:48 IST