Saravana hotels owner sentenced to life for murder

SC upholds conviction
Last Updated 29 March 2019, 14:58 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the conviction and sentence of life term awarded to P Rajagopal, owner of popular Saravana Bhavan's chain of hotels, for murdering an employee in October 2001 as he wanted to take spouse of the deceased as his third wife.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee dismissed the appeals filed by the convicts whose sentence was enhanced to life term by the Madras High Court on March 20, 2009.

On a plea made by senior advocate Sushil Kumar, appearing for the convict that he was not well, the bench granted Rajagopal and seven others time and ordered them to surrender on July 8.

The state government was represented by Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan.

The top court relied upon the statement of the deceased's wife, terming her as “steadfast”. She deposed in detail as to how Rajagopal wanted to marry her and how he often tried to lure her through undue favours. She has deposed that since he wished to take her as his third wife, he wanted to separate her from her husband. Whenever she or her family were in need of money, he would generously help them. He even used to talk to her over the phone regularly and used to interfere in her personal matters unwantedly.

Giving credence to other witness' statements, the court said, the chain of circumstances was complete and pointed solely at the guilt of the accused. It said the proof in criminal cases should be beyond a reasonable doubt and it was not necessary that such proof should be perfect.

“Someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes,” it said.

The high court had held the accused guilty of murder. The sessions court had convicted them under a less grave charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced them to 10-year jail term.

According to the prosecution, Rajagopal, besotted by her and on advice by his astrologer, wanted to marry Jeevan Jyothi, wife of murdered employee Santhakumar whose body was found in October 2001 in Perumalmalai in Kodaikanal range of forest. Before the incident, the accused had abducted the deceased on October 1, 2001. He was brought back on October 24, 2001.

On October 26, 2001, the accused took away Santhakumar in a car, and on the direction, Rajagopal committed his murder and threw away his body at the Tiger-Chola forest area within the jurisdiction of Kodaikanal Police Station.

The top court rejected a contention of the accused that the murder took place when the probe was abduction was on, so the second FIR related to murder was required to be probed further.

“The first offence was committed with the intention to abduct the deceased and his wife, to threaten and pressurize them. In contrast, the intention behind the second offence was to murder the deceased with a view to permanently get rid of him,” the court said.

The court also did not agree to another contention that a DNA test should have been conducted in order to identify the dead body, instead of a superimposition test.

(Published 29 March 2019, 06:03 IST)

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