P Rajagopal, founder of Saravana Bhavan restaurant group
P Rajagopal, founder of Saravana Bhavan restaurant group

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant relief to P Rajagopal, founder of Saravana Bhavan restaurant group, who had sought more time to surrender in a 2001 murder case. The apex court had, on March 29, convicted and sentenced him to rigorous life imprisonment for murdering one of his employees. He was directed to surrender by July 7.

Born in a small village of Punnaiyadi in Tuticorin district to an onion farmer of Nadar community in 1947, he wanted to be successful from the very small age. He left school after the seventh grade to earn a livelihood and went to work at a restaurant where he wiped tables and slept on the floor.

Slowly he learnt to make tea. Soon Rajagopal moved to work as an attendant in a grocery shop, a stint which eventually led him to open his own grocery shop with the help of his father and brother-in-law. He came to Chennai to fulfill his aspirations and started his journey with a general provisions store in KK Nagar. After 8 years in 1981, he started a small hotel in KK Nagar on an advice of his astrologer who said him to indulge in business activity associated with fire. He was an ardent follower of Astrology.

After opening his hotel, he started providing wholesome food at a minimal price of Re 1 in the initial few months. He incurred huge losses up to Rs 10,000 per month, but soon his restaurant became famous all over Chennai. In 1992, on his visit to Singapore he observed the functioning of the multinational fast food joints like McDonald's and used them as a model to start his food chain which is now known as Saravana Bhavan.

By the 1990s, the Sarvana Bhavan chain spreaded throughout neighbourhoods in Chennai. In 2000, it opened its first overseas branch in Dubai with a large number of Indian expatriates. It eventually expanded to 47 locations across several countries in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.

"Annachi" - elder brother as he is being regarded by his employees, was true to his name as for him two things were of utmost importance. One, is no compromise on the food quality and second is his workers care and benefits. Sarvana Bhavan employees are paid well and enjoy benefits like pension, free health care, housing loans, a marriage fund for their daughters and magazine subscription among others.

In his autobiography Vetri Meedhu Aasai Veithen, he has mentioned about his inclinations towards religion and astrology. And how astrology has shaped his decisions can be known from the fact that he got convicted for a murder of one of his employee Prince Santhakumar.

According to the advice of his astrologer, in order to become rich, Rajagopal had to marry Jeevajothi, the daughter of one of his employees, and made her his third wife. At that time, he already had two wives.

On the advice of a Astrologer, he obsessively tried to take Jeevajothi but she was already married and rejected him. He orchestrated multiple threats, beatings and exorcism against her and her family. In 2001, after one attempted murder, he successfully orchestrated the murder of her husband Santhakumar. The body of Santhakumar was founded inside the Tiger Chola forests in Kodaikanal on October 31.

In 2004, Rajagopal along with eigh others were charged for culpable homicide with 10 years of rigorous imprisonment by Chennai Sessions Court. He was awarded a life imprisonment in 2009. Yesterday, he surrendered to a court in Chennai after being convicted and sentenced to a life term in a murder case. He was later admitted to the government-run Stanley Hospital after he complained of giddiness, said a senior hospital official.

He came to the Additional Sessions Judge's court in an ambulance with an oxygen mask fixed and appeared before the judge in a wheelchair.

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