Saravana Bhavan founder P Rajagopal passes away due to cardiac arrest

Saravana Bhavan founder P Rajagopal sentenced to life imprisonment

An Indian restaurant tycoon known as the "Dosa King" died in hospital today, a week after beginning a life sentence for the murder of a love rival. Five years later, the Madras High Court confirmed the verdict and increased the sentence to life in prison, a punishment then upheld by the Supreme Court in March.

By the time Rajagopal surrendered one last time, a week ago, his legacy had already been written. He harassed, threatened and tried to blackmail her, and hired a gunman to kill the woman's husband. He allegedly wanted to marry the daughter of a Saravana Bhavan Chennai branch employee.

Founder of the popular South Indian food chain Saravana Bhavan, Rajagopal had surrendered along with another accused earlier to serve life term after the Supreme Court rejected his plea seeking more time citing ill-health.

Rajagopal then challenged the high court's order before the apex court, which was rejected.

A representation was made to the authorities to shift him to any private hospital for better treatment, he said praying for a direction from the court for the relief.

The bench headed by Justice NV Ramana had given Rajagopal time till July 7 to surrender.

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Saravana Bhavan at KK Nagar in Chennai in 1981. However, Jeevjyothi married Shanthakumar in 1999 after refusing Rajagopal's proposal.

For many years, Rajagopal had the reputation of being a good employer who took care of his staff and paid handsome salaries, and ensured their and their families' education and health.

Rajagopal would threaten the couple and forced them to call off their marriage.

Rajgopal was convicted in 2004, in the kidnapping and murder of his employee, Santhakumar. Today his chain has scores of branches across India as well as more than 80 countries, with restaurants in London, Sydney and NY popular among the diaspora.

A few days later, Shantakumar was abducted again and taken to the Kodaikanal Hill Station, where his body was found by the first department officials from the Tiger Chola forests.

The evidence was "natural, consistent, cogent and probable", and it did "not find any reason to disagree with the findings arrived at in that regard by the Trial Court as well as by the High Court", the Supreme Court said.

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