Hours after Supreme Court Tuesday refused to grant relief to Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal, he surrendered in an 18-year-old murder case in which he has been awarded life sentence. Rajagopal, who was to surrender by July 7, had sought more time citing health complications.
In March, the Supreme Court upheld the life sentence awarded to P Rajagopal, 72 and eight others for the murder of his employee, Prince Santhakumar, whose wife he had wanted to marry. Rajagopal’s accomplices, including Daniel, Karmegam, Zakir Hussain, Kasi Viswanathan and Patturajan surrendered before the fourth additional session court in Chennai.
The case dates back to 2001 when Rajagopal was accused of threatening, abducting and murdering Santhakumar, so he could marry his wife Jeevajothi. Apparently, astrologers had asked Rajagopal to marry Jeevajyothi to attain more wealth. At the time, Rajagopal already had two wives — his second marriage was to a woman who was the wife of a former employee.
On October 26, 2001, Santhakumar was kidnapped by Rajagopal’s men from Chennai and murdered in Kodaikanal on the same day. The Forest Department found Santhakumar’s body in Tiger Chola Forests. A charge sheet was filed under Sections 302 (murder), 364 (abduction) and 201 (destruction of evidence) of the IPC.
In 2004, a special court found the hotelier guilty and awarded him 10-years of rigorous imprisonment. Rajagopal challenged the special court’s decision and the prosecution sought enhancement of the punishment. In 2009, the Madras High Court enhanced the punishment of Rajagopal to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 55 lakh, including Rs 50 lakh as compensation to Jeevajyothi.
In March 2019, dismissing appeals against the 2009 verdict of the Madras High Court, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee ruled: “In our considered opinion, the prosecution has proved the complicity of all the appellants in murdering Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger Chola (in Kodaikanal).”