On Sunday, the founder of Saravana Bhavan, the eatery found in India and beyond -- from Leicester Square to Lexington Avenue via Singapore, Sydney and Stockholm -- is due to begin a life sentence.
Eighteen years after the abduction and murder of a man in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of P Rajagopal, the founder of the Saravana Bhavan chain of hotels.
The apex court’s order comes 10 years after the Madras High Court’s sentence. Owing to medical grounds, the SC bench has given Rajagopal time until July 7 to surrender.
The case dates back to 2001 when P Rajagopal, also known as Annachi, hired eight henchmen to abduct and murder Prince Santhakumar. This as Santhakumar, a math teacher had married a woman named Jeevajyothi, who was the daughter of Rajagopal’s employee Ramaswamy. Jeevajyothi was a woman Rajagopal wanted to marry and make her his third wife.
Ramasamy and his family shifted to Chennai sometime before 1999 and he started working in Saravana Bhavan as an Assistant Manager.
Meanwhile, he engaged Santhakumar to take math tuition for his son. Later, Ramasamy left for Malaysia and his daughter Jeevajyothi, fell in love with Santhakumar. Ramasamy did not agree to the marriage as Santhakumar was a Christian, but the couple registered their marriage in April 1999.
The prosecution told the court that Rajagopal threatened the couple to call off the marriage. In 2001, Jeevajothi and Shantakumar filed a complaint with the police, alleging that they were being threatened by Rajagopal and his aides. Days after the couple went to the police, Shanthakumar was kidnapped and killed.
Saravana Bhavan, a well-known restaurant chain, has outlets in 20 countries including the US, the UK, France and Australia. There are 25 restaurants in India including in Delhi.