Saravana Bhawan owner P Rajagopal, whose conviction was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court in a 2001 Murder case, has passed away at hospital in Chennai.
It was only a few days ago, he surrendered to serve life term after the Supreme Court turned down his plea to extend time on health reasons to surrender to serve sentence in a murder case.
On March 29, a bench of Justices Ramana, Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee had dismissed a batch of appeals filed against the 2009 judgment of Madras High Court convicting Rajagopal and his aides for murder of Santhakumar, an employee of the restaurant, in 2001. Rajagopal, who was out on bail then, was given time by the Court till July 7 to surrender.
The trial court had sentenced Rajagopal to ten years imprisonment under Section 304, Part I IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in 2004, which was enhanced to life imprisonment under Section 302 IPC(murder) by Madras HC.
The case was resting entirely on circumstantial evidence. The prosecution mainly relied upon three circumstances to prove the guilt of the accused - motive, the last seen circumstance and the recovery of the dead body at the instance of one of the accused Daniel, a mercenary hired by Rajagopal.
The SC bench independently evaluated the evidence to "satisfy its conscience" and held that the incriminating circumstances were well established. The consistent testimonies of Jeevajothi and her family members established the motive of the crime. Their testimonies also revealed that the deceased was seen last in the company of the accused. The dead body was recovered based on the confession by one of the accused. Also, the personal belongings of the victim such as gold chain, wallet etc. were recovered from the accused persons.
The Court termed the testimonies of prosecution witnesses 'overwhelming, steadfast, cogent, homogeneous, consistent and reliable'. It noted that the accused had not offered any explanation to rebut the strong evidence placed against them.