by Florine Roche
Chennai, Apr 1 : With the Supreme Court recently upholding the conviction and life sentence given to owner of Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants P Rajgopal for murdering a man 18 years, there are many who believe that ‘justice delayed but not delayed’.
The reality however, is different from the general perception that law will take its own course in punishing the culprits. Rajgopal who had plotted the sensational murder of Jeevajyothi’s husband Shanthakumar, who was also the employee of Rajgopal, in 2001, was imprisoned for a brief term in the last 18 years for the horrible crime he committed. The verdict of the Supreme Court comes a decade after the Madras High Court sentenced him for a life term. The Madras High Court had convicted Rajgopal to life term in 2009 after terming the murder incident as ‘a grave one done with a clear intention’.
It enhanced the 10 year rigorous imprisonment awarded by a special court in 2014 to Rajgopal and five of his employees turned accomplices in the crime – Karmegan, Daniel, Kasi Vishwanathan, Hussain and Patturangan.
He was out on bail as he had appealed to the Supreme Court and few days back Supreme Court bench comprising justice N V Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Indira Bannerjee upheld the Madras High Court that awarded him life term for the murder of Shanthakumar. The court has also him to surrender before July 7, 2019. Rajgopal, at 72, suffers from a series of age related ailments and there is every possibility that he might choose the easier way of staying out of the jail by getting admitted to the hospital and would continue to enjoy all the facilities.
Despite ruining the lives of many in committing the crime he continued to live a normal life. Considering his ill-health and advanced age, the life sentence awarded to him means very little as compared to the severity of the crime. In other words, justice delayed is justice denied and this incident is a classic example of how justice has been denied to the victim due to the undue delay in bringing the culprits to the book
It started with the desire for a third wife
This murder incident involving Rajgopal, widely recognized as one of the most successful budget hotel and restaurants in India, had created quite a sensation. It attracted national attention as it had all the ingredients of a Bollywood potboiler – money, love, lust, passion, deceit, marriage, caste, religion, polygamy, astrology, black magic, crime, murder and finally the punishment. Much water has flown under the bridge in the last two decades since the murder and now the Supreme Court has given a judgment upholding the life sentence for the heinous crime he committed 18 years ago. Rajgopal had planned and executed the murder of Prince Shanthakumar as he wanted to marry Prince’s wife and take her as his third wife.
The incident dates back to 2001 and has few parallels in terms of the factors that usually make a reel story - where the powerless are fitted against the powerful, the lust of a man who at 54 wanted a young girl as his third wife, role of an astrologer in making a hotelier a criminal and the plot of kidnap, abduction and murder which Rajgopal carried out using his employees.
The obsession that proved fatal
Hotelier Rajgopal who is known popularly by his nickname Annachi, meaning elder brother in Tamil, had set his eyes on Jeevajyothi, the daughter of his employee Ramasamy, reportedly at the advice of an astrologer who told him that marrying Jeevajyothi would bring him unimaginable prosperity.
Rajgopal had set his eyes on her when she was studying in plus two after meeting her at a get together he had organized for his employees in 1994. Ramasamy family was living in the Saravana Bhavan quarters in K K Nagar and Annachi who already had two wives, wanted Jeevajyothi (Jyothi) to be his third wife. Having cast his eyes on the young girl he began stalking her thereafter, with the young girl having no inclination. Later when she came to know she rejected his overtures but Rajgopal continued persuading her. He gave her a phone and used to pressurize her regularly to marry him.
Annachi’s wicked designs to make Jyothi as his third wife received a jolt with the entry of Prince Shanthakumar, an employee of Saravana Bhavan who was teaching maths to Jyothi’s brother. Jyothi fell in love with Shanthakumar and they both eloped to get married in 1999 as Ramasamy did not approve the alliance because Shanthakumar was a Christian. An enraged Annachi had threatened the couple to break off the marriage but they did not budge.
But as fate would have it, Annachi got a chance to get back to the family when Tavamani, Jyothi’s mother approached him for a bank guarantee for a loan for the couple who wanted to start a travel agency. He gave them Rs. 1 lakh to open a shop and succeeded in winning the family’s confidence. Annachi was so obsessed with Jyothi he tried every trick up the sleeve to break her off from Shanthakumar. Initially he tried black magic to make Jyothi hate Prince Shanthakumar. When Jyothi faced some health problems Annachi began to spread canards that Shanthakumar was suffering from AIDS, in order to dissuade the couple from having sex. Rajgopal did all this at the instance of astrologer Ravi of Madipakkam who told him that marrying Jyothi would automatically make him the richest person in the world.
Intimidating girl’s family
When this plans to separate the couple by persuasion and intimidation failed to yield desired results he tried to influence Jyothi’s mother to convince her daughter to marry Rajgopal. When this plot too did not work Annachi sent his manager Daniel and a team of his employees to eliminate Shanthakumar who he thought was the major thorn in his otherwise easy path.
Daniel and team which took Rs. 5 lakhs for the job kidnapped Prince Shanthakumar and took him to Tirunelveli and then sent him to Mumbai telling him not to return. Rajgopal was told by the team that Prince has been eliminated. However, when Prince called Jyothi and narrated what actually happened to him she persuaded him to come back. An exasperated Annachi then hatched another plot to annihilate Prince and succeeded in it.
In October 2001, Shanthakumar was kidnapped by Daniel and his team from Chennai and was taken to Kodaikanal and was murdered on the same day even when a police complaint lodged by the couple for abduction and intimidation against Rajgopal was pending. Forest officials later recovered Shanthakumar’s body from Tiger Chola forest and postmortem report confirmed that he was strangulated to death. After kidnapping Jyothi Annachi reportedy kept her under house arrest for 10 days and during this time he even brought a priest to perform a widow pooja which made Jyothi suspect his intent. After escaping from his clutches, Jyothi lodged a complaint with the commissioner of police and the incident attracted attention of one and all.
Once the sensational murder was out in the open Daniel and his team surrendered and even Rajgopal surrendered before a magistrate court in Tirunelveli in November 2001. Even after coming out on appeal bail in July 2003, he continued to woo Jyothi and offered her Rs. 6 Lakhs and gold ornaments if she married him. He even pressurized her family and had assaulted her brother when the family refused to succumb to his blackmail tactics. He even threatened kidnapping her following which another police complaint was lodged and Rajgopal was rearrested. It is said that neighbours had surrounded Jyothi’s house in Thethukudi village in Nagapatnam when they heard the commotion when Rajgopal and henchmen were intimidating the family. Though his legal adviser was caught Rajgoopal and his goons escaped.
Rajgopl had surrendered in 2003 after the incident became a talk of the state. In 2004 a local court sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment for culpable murder. In March 2009 the Madras High Court enhanced his sentence to life term and he approached the Supreme Court which delivered its judgment on March 29, upholding the Madras High Court sentence.
Astrology and Rajgopal’s rise and fall
P Rajgopal was owned a grocery shop in Chennai took the advice of an astrologer who suggested he take up a business that involved fire. In 1981 he along with a business partner took control of Kamatchi Bhavan a small restaurant that wasn’t doing well and renamed it Sharavana Bhavan where all items were sold for just Rs. 1/-
Going against the suggestion of a business advisor he used good quality ingredients and oil and also paid his employees well and even took care of all their needs. Soon word spread about the small eatery for its tasty food at reasonable rates. Today Saravana Bhavan has more than 30 chain of restaurants is spread across India and about 47 restaurants abroad which speak volumes of the success he has achieved.
It is indeed ironical that on the advice of the astrologer Rajgopal climbed became rich and powerful and it was the astrologer’s advice that brought about his ignominious downfall.
Well written with facts and truths.
It’s an eye opener for those ones’ who indulge in crimes against humanity.
Expect many more write ups from the author.