Owner of the popular Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants P Rajagopal, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in an abduction and murder case, died in a private hospital in Chennai on Thursday. He passed away at around 10.30 am on Thursday. He was 72. Rajagopal, who was admitted to hospital, had been facing many health issues and had suffered a heart attack on July 15. He had been critical over the past few days and had been put on ventilator support temporarily.
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.
Speaking to TNM, Rajagopal's lawyer Muthukannaiyan said that he was already in a dangerous state due to his many health complications. "He had suffered two heart attacks already in Stanley hospital and then only he was shifted to Vijaya Hospital. He passed away in Vijaya Hospital," Muthukannaiyan said.
Rajagopal was convicted to ten years rigorous imprisonment by a sessions court for the abduction and murder of a man named Prince Santhakumar in 2001. Rajagopal allegedly wanted to marry Jeevajyothi, Santhakumar's wife, based on the advice of an astrologer. Despite Jeevajyothi's resistance, Rajagopal continued to pursue and harass her and her husband.
Rajagopal had appealed against the decision of the sessions court in the Madras High court, which revised the sentence to life imprisonment. He challenged the sentence in Supreme Court, and after much delay, the Supreme Court upheld the life imprisonment. The court also gave Rajagopal time till July 7 to surrender owing to health issues. Rajagopal, however, failed to surrender on the said date and filed a plea with the apex court on the next day seeking extension for his surrender. The Supreme Court had refused to grant him relief and ordered him to surrender immediately.
P Rajagopal had surrendered before the IV Magistrate court in Chennai on July 8 and was admitted to Stanley Medical College hospital on the same day. Plagued by health issues, Rajagopal had come to the court complex in an ambulance from Vijaya Hospital and was taken in a stretcher to the court. He then surrendered in the murder case as per the orders of the Supreme Court.
Rajagopal had started Saravana Bhavan, a chain of vegetarian restaurants, in Chennai in 1981. From its first outlet in KK nagar, Saravana Bhavan hotels are now spread in over 15 countries across the world. The main reason for Saravana Bhavanâ€™s growth and development was attributed to the quality of ingredients used in the food items in the hotel and also for how Rajagopal treated his employees. He was benevolent with his employees, which led to them calling him â€˜Annachiâ€™, which, in Tamil, means Elder brother.