Saravana Bhavan founder surrenders on stretcher to serve his jail term
Chennai : P Rajagopal, the 72-year-old founder of Saravana Bhavan global chain of restaurants, on Wednesday surrendered before the Chennai court in an ambulance to serve his jail term for murder after the country’s top court refused to accept his request to let him stay out any longer.
“Surrender immediately,” Justice NV Ramana of the country’s top court had told his lawyer who wanted more time for the businessman to surrender on grounds that he was ill.
Mr Rajagopal coming to the court on a stretcher in an ambulance shows that the businessman’s concern for his health was genuine.
The judges had thrashed reports of ill health, asking him to surrender without wasting any time. “If he was so ill, why did he not choose to indicate the same during the hearing of his appeal here?” Justice NV Ramana shot back when senior lawyer Kapil Sibal made the request on Rajagopal’s behalf.
Rajagopal was first found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in 2004. The judge had found him guilty of ordering the abduction and murder of his employee three years earlier to be able to marry his widow.
Rajagopal had appealed against the verdict in the high court which concluded in 2009 that he had been sentenced too lightly and ordered him to serve a life term in jail. He appealed again, this time to the Supreme Court.
In March this year, the top court upheld the life term for the businessman who had started out as a cleaner in a small hotel and rose to own a chain of Udipi restaurants with 80 outlets around the world. He had 100 days to surrender. The deadline expired on 7 July.