Monday, 30th October 2017

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Dosa King Rajagopal’s drive to stay out of jail flops

Rajagopal has been sentenced to life in jail for the murder of his own employee

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 10.07.19, 8:05 AM
  • Updated 10.07.19, 8:05 AM
  • a min read
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P Rajagopal, the founder of the Saravana Bhavan chain, arrives in a stretcher to surrender before a sessions court in Chennai on Tuesday (PTI)

“Dosa King” P. Rajagopal has surrendered in court to begin a life sentence in a murder case, hours after the Supreme Court rejected the restaurateur’s last-ditch attempt to stay out of prison.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the plea filed by Rajagopal, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan that has a chain of eateries serving south Indian vegetarian food in India, the US, Europe, Australia and the Gulf, seeking more time to commence his jail term.

Rajagopal, 71, has been sentenced to life in jail for the murder of his own employee after the rags-to-riches restaurateur tried in vain to get married to the employee’s wife.

A bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, M. Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi rejected the application moved by Rajagopal on medical grounds. The bench noted that the plea of illness was never raised by him during the appeal proceedings and hence his prayer cannot be entertained at this juncture.

Rajagopal was to surrender on July 7 to serve the life term for murdering the employee in October 2001.

Earlier, an apex court bench had dismissed appeals of nine convicts, including Rajagopal, and upheld Madras High Court verdict awarding life term to them.

The high court had in 2009 enhanced to life term the 10-year imprisonment awarded by a local court to Rajagopal and the eight others in the murder case.

Either on the “advice of an astrologer” or “having become besotted with” the wife of his employee Santhakumar, Rajagopal initially attempted to make her his third wife and after failing to do so, plotted the abduction and murder of her husband, the top court had noted in its judgment.

“In our considered opinion, the prosecution has proved the complicity of all the appellants in murdering Santhakumar by strangulating him,” the top court said in its verdict.

Rajagopal used to financially help the woman, her family members and her husband, the court had said, adding that the key accused used to talk to the woman on phone frequently and also gave her costly gifts.

On October 1, 2001, Rajagopal got the woman and her husband abducted. The accused first persuaded and then threatened them to separate so that he can marry her.

A few days later, the victim was again abducted and then killed. The body was later exhumed at the instance of one of the accused.