P Rajagopal (Express Archive)
The Supreme Court Friday upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of the P Rajagopal, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan group of hotels, and asked him to surrender by July 7. Rajagopal was convicted for abducting and murdering an employee, Prince Shantakumar, in October 2001 so that he could marry his wife.
Rajagopal was a provision store owner before going on to open Saravana Bhavan, a popular restaurant with branches across the country.
The Madras High Court had convicted him to life in prison in 2009 after finding the case “a grave one done with a clear intention”. It enhanced the 10-year rigorous imprisonment awarded by a special court in 2004 to Rajagopal and five of his accomplices — Daniel, Karmegan, Hussain, Kasi Viswanathan and Patturangan.
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The HC has also apart imposed on Rajagopal a fine of Rs 55 lakh, including Rs 50 lakh as compensation to Jeevanjothi.
What is the case against Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal?
The case dates back to the late 1990s when Rajagopal set his eyes on a woman named Jeevajothi. She was the daughter of former assistant manager at Saravana Bhavan, Ramasamy. Rajagopal, who had two wives at the time, wanted Jeevajothi to become his third. However, she objected to the proposal.
In 1999, Jeevajothi married Shantakumar, a former tuition teacher who had joined his company. Rajagopal had threatened the couple to break off the marriage, according to the prosecution. But the couple refused to heed to his threats.
On October 1, 2001, the couple filed a complaint with the local police saying they were abducted by Rajagopal’s gang and intimidated. The same month, Shanthakumar was kidnapped from Chennai and taken to Kodaikanal. He was murdered the same day.
Shanthakumar’s body was found by officials from the Forest Department inside the Tiger Chola forests. According to postmortem reports, he had been strangulated.
Rajagopal surrendered on November 23 that year after the case became sensational. He got bail on July 15, 2003.
He was later accused of attempting to bribe Jeevajothi with Rs six lakh and intimidating her family.--IE