P Rajagopal, Saravana Bhavan's owner, who was accused in a 2001 kidnapping and murder case died at a private hospital in Chennai after he suffered a heart attack Thursday.
Rajagopal died around 10 am after he was shifted to a private hospital in the city from Stanley Medical College Hospital following a court's order on Tuesday, according to a report in PTI.
The owner of the popular restaurant chain had on July 9 surrendered before the Madras High Court to begin his life sentence of fifteen years which was to start on July 7. Rajagopal who was brought to the court in an ambulance, plugged to an oxygen tank had however appealed to the court for more time to surrender on grounds of ill health.
The Supreme Court had turned down his plea, following which Rajagopal made his dramatic entrance at the court on a stretcher with an oxygen mask.
A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana dismissed Rajagopal's plea, saying his illness was not raised before it during the hearing of the appeal in the case. The bench said, "If he was so ill, why did he not indicate illness even for one day during hearings of his appeal?"
Rajagopal in 2004 was convicted of kidnapping and murdering a math tutor, Santhakumar, who was the son-in-law of an assistant manager at one of Saravana Bhavan outlets. Rajagopal allegedly murdered Santhakumar so that he could marry his wife, Jeevajothi. Apparently, an astrologer had told him that Jeevajothi would bring him great luck, and he was advised to marry her.
A local court had sentenced Rajagopal and eight others to 10 years in prison. The appeal was then moved to the Madras High Court that upheld the earlier court's verdict, and also increased the sentence to life in prison. The appeal was again upheld by the Supreme Court in March.
Rajagopal's popular restaurant chain, Saravana Bhavan, has multiple outlets in 20 countries, including the US, the UK, France and Australia.
(Edited by Manali)