SC upholds lifer for Saravana Bhavan owner (2nd Lead)

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New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the life imprisonment of P. Rajagopal, the owner of south Indian hotel chain Saravana Bhavan, for murdering an employee in October 2001 so as to marry his wife.

Upholding the sentence of life imprisonment, the bench of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Indira Banerjee said: “We find that the evidence on record fully proves the case of prosecution and that the trial court as well as the high court evaluated the material on record in its proper prospective while coming to their conclusion.”

Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Shantanagoudar said: “The judgment of the trial court as modified by the high court need not be interfered with. Hence these appeals fail and stand dismissed.”

Speaking for the bench, Justice Shantanagoudar said: “In our considered opinion, the overwhelming, consistent, cogent and reliable testimonies of two prosecution witnesses, along with the corroborative evidence, conclusively prove the prosecution case.”

The ruling comes on a challenge to March 19, 2009 Madras High Court order upholding his conviction and enhancing the 10-year sentence given by a trial court.

When contacted, Rajagopal’s son P.R. Shivakumar told IANS: “I just got an SMS about the verdict. I have to get more details.”

The hugely popular Saravana Bhavan hotel chain has outlets within and outside India and is now managed by Shivakumar.

Rajagopal was arrested on charges of murdering his employee, Prince Shantakumar, so as to marry his wife.

Referring to the material facts, the court noted that either on the advice of an astrologer or having become besotted with the wife of Shantakumar, Rajagopal had evinced keen desire to take her as his third wife.

He used to talk to her over the phone frequently, and also gave her costly gifts including jewellery, silk sarees and even went to the extent of paying her medical bills.

–IANS

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