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India’s ‘dosa king’ dies one week into life term for murder of love rival

Saravana Bhavan founder, P Rajagopal has died at the age of 71. Source: Twitter

P Rajagopal, the founder of the global restaurant chain, Saravana Bhavan was serving a life term for orchestrating the murder of the husband of a woman he wanted to make his third wife.

The 71-year-old Indian tycoon, who owned the famous south Indian restaurant chain, Saravana Bhavan, died in Chennai in southern India on Thursday.

P Rajagopal suffered a cardiac arrest at a private hospital where he had been shifted on Tuesday, following a court direction.

The restaurateur was serving a life sentence for ordering the murder of the husband of a woman he wanted to make his third wife.

Last week, he had surrendered to a local court after the country’s apex court rejected his plea seeking bail on medical grounds. He had arrived at the local court in an ambulance and with an oxygen mask strapped to his face.

Case background:

Mr Rajagopal had ordered the murder of a man, whose wife he wanted to marry, reportedly on the advice of his astrologer.

The said woman, then in her 20's turned down his advances, but he continued to pursue her and threatened to use the ‘power of his money’ to realise his intention of taking her as his third wife.

But in 2001, after all his attempts failed, he ordered the kidnapping and murder of her husband, whose body was later recovered from a forest in Kodaikanal, a hill town in southern India.

Timeline of the case:

In 2004, Mr Rajagopal was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.

Three years later, he challenged the verdict in the Madras High Court, which enhanced the punishment to life imprisonment in 2009.

The restaurateur then filed an appeal in the country’s apex court which upheld the High Court’s verdict and gave him 100 days to surrender.

The deadline ended on July 7, but Mr Rajagopal failed to surrender, citing ill health. He filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to delay the beginning of his life term on medical grounds, which too was refused on July 9.

saravana bhavan
Saravana Bhavan is best-known for its tasty and affordable south Indian snacks.
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Rajagopal's business empire:

Rajagopal, famously known as India’s 'dosa king' after the south Indian staple food, founded Saravana Bhavan in 1981 when eating out was considered a luxury.

Today the chain which is best-known for its tasty and affordable south Indian delights mainly dosa pancakes, idli rice cakes and deep-fried vadas, has 80 outlets across the globe, including in Australia, catering to overseas Indians' nostalgic taste for south Indian food.

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