Saravana Bhavan founder P Rajagopal passes away due to cardiac arrest

An image of

An image of"Dosa King P. Rajagopal is printed on the menu at one of his restaurants in Chennai IndiaMore

On Thursday, the 73-year-old hotelier died in a private hospital here against the backdrop of having to face the ignominy of surrendering before a court to serve a life term upheld by the Supreme Court in March this year.

Rajagopal was first convicted in 2004 for the killing of Prince Shanthakumar, husband of Jeevajothi, a woman employee, in 2001.

The case dates back to the 1990s when Rajagopal, on the advice of an astrologer wanted to marry Jeevajyothi who was in her 20's.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case and had surrendered on July 9, hours after the Supreme Court rejected his petition seeking more time.

He reportedly became obsessed with the woman, then in her 20s, who was already married and had rejected his advances.

Rajagopal, who was admitted to Stanley Medical College Hospital, Chennai owing to health complications was shifted to a private hospital recently after his son requested the court to grant him permission to move his father to a private hospital, after he claimed that Stanley hospital did not have adequate facilities to treat Rajagopal.

The turn of the millennium saw Rajagopal's murder conviction tarnish the great Saravana Bhavan story.

Rajagopal rose from rags to riches to create a chain which now has more than 80 restaurants in India and around the world, from London's Leicester Square to New York's Lexington Avenue but also Singapore, Sydney and Stockholm.

The High Court had enhanced the 10-year sentence given by a trial court. He was later shifted to a hospital after his condition deteriorated.

Saravana Bhavan at KK Nagar in Chennai in 1981.

A few days later, Santhakumar was kidnapped from Chennai and taken to Kodaikanal, where he was murdered, according to the case against Rajagopal. The prosecution told the court Rajagopal threatened the couple in 2001 and demanded they end the marriage. Her husband's body was later found in a forest and police confirmed that he had been strangled. He got bail, but less than two years later, on July 15, 2003, he was accused of trying to bribe Jeevajothi with Rs 6 lakh, intimidating her, and assaulting her brother Ramkumar. Rajagopal had challenged the High Court verdict.

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