P Rajagopal
Saraval Bhavan Hotel founder P RajagopalTwitter [Representational Image]

The founder of popular restaurant chain Saravana Bhavan, P Rajagopal, will have to spend the rest of his days in prison as the Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence over murder charges.

The 72-year-old was found guilty for the murder of an employee in 2001. The accused had orchestrated the murder of Prince Santhakumar to marry his wife based on an astrologer's advise.

The Madras High Court had sentenced Rajagopal and others for life imprisonment in 2009 but they were let out on bail. Rajagopal had challenged the High Court verdict. As per the Supreme Court order, the accused will have to surrender to the authorities by July 7.

The love triangle

Rajagopal wanted to marry Jeevajothi, the daughter of an assistant manager at his Chennai hotel. But Jeevajothi had objected the proposal as the accused was already married twice.

In 1999, Santhakumar had married Jeevajothi which left Rajagopal furious. He started to threaten the couple. In 2001, they filed a complaint with the police stating that Rajagopal and his aides were threatening them.

On October 1, 2001, the victim was abducted by Rajagopal and eight others and was strangled to death. His body was later found at Perumalmalai in Kodaikanal hill range on October 30, 2001.

According to a 2009 article by The Indian Express, the High Court bench enhanced 10-year rigorous imprisonment for Rajagopal, Y Daniel, M Karmegam, H Zakir Hussain, V Kasi Viswanathan and N Patturajan to life term, reduced the total fine amount of Rs 55 lakh imposed on Rajagopal to Rs 30,000 and confirmed the sentence of three years RI to the remaining three accused C Tamil Selvan, V Sethu and A Muruganandam.

Saravana Bhavan is an international restaurant chain with its branches in 20 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.