chain, was on Thursday sentenced to life in a murder case by the
Madras High Court that enhanced his 10-year rigorous imprisonment
awarded by a trial court.
A division bench convicted Rajagopal and six others for the 2001
murder. The court also increased his conviction from culpable homicide
not amounting to murder, to culpable homicide amounting to murder.
Rajagopal, 59, who had founded the Saravana Bhavan chain of hotels
worldwide in 1981, had been found guilty of murdering an employee
Prince Shantakumar in 2001. A fast track court had in 2004 sentenced
him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined him Rs 50.5 lakhs.
Rajagopal had also been accused of sexually harassing Shantakumar's
widow, Jeevajothi, and the daughter of another employee Ramaswamy.
Of the fine, Rs 50 lakh was to be handed over to Jeevajothi, the court
Rajagopal, who was rearrested for violating bail conditions during his
trial after allegedly attempting to threaten Jeevajothi, had appealed
to the high court.
The Saravana Bhavan chain of hotels and restaurants, popular for their
range of idlis, dosas and the like, gained further notoriety in
November 2008 after Rajagopal's son P Shiva Kumar was arrested on a
charge of forging documents to smuggle people into the US.
The charges were based on the findings of the US consulate. The arrest
also resulted in the cancellation of several lucrative contracts of
the hotel chain to supply food to American diplomatic missions.
According to the hotel group's website, its outlets are located
"across 22 outlets in South India, three in the North and seven
countries with 22 outlets across the globe".