India ‘dosa king’ begins prison term for murder

P Rajagopal (centre) will serve a 10 year jail sentence for his role in the murder of the husband of a woman he was in love with. (Wikipedia pic)

NEW DELHI: The trailblazing Indian founder of a global restaurant chain surrendered to a court today after losing a last-ditch bid to avoid a life sentence for murdering a love rival.

P Rajagopal, the wealthy founder of the Saravana Bhavan chain of eateries popular across India and beyond was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in 2004 over the killing of a love rival.

The Supreme Court in New Delhi turned him down on Tuesday and the judges ordered the tycoon to “surrender immediately”.

He later gave himself up at the Madras High Court in Chennai in his native southern state of Tamil Nadu, arriving in an ambulance with an oxygen mask strapped to his face.

Reports say Rajagopal, 71 and known as the “Dosa King” was obsessed with the daughter of an employee and wanted to marry her.

Unable to take a no for an answer, he ordered the killing of her husband.

Rajagopal was meant to surrender to authorities by July 7 after his life conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in March.

But he moved the top court again Monday, saying he was hospitalised and needed more time.

His request will be taken up for consideration on Tuesday.

Rajagopal, always dressed in white with a strip of sandalwood paste on his forehead, is the son of a low-caste onion trader from a village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

In 1981, he opened his first restaurant at a time when eating out was unusual for most Indians. The chain now has outlets worldwide from New York to London to Dubai.

The winning formula was, and remains, that the southern Indian vegetarian delights on offer, dosa pancakes, deep-fried vadas and idli rice cakes, taste homemade, and are affordable.

Reports say he wanted to make the woman his third wife because an astrologer had advised him to do so.