Saravana Bhavan owner P Rajagopal guilty of murdering his employee in 2001 [Full Report]

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, MM Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee, JJ has upheld the conviction and sentence of life imposed upon Saravana Bhavan Owner P Rajagopal by the Madras High Court for the abduction and murder of his employee Santhakumar.

Factual Background

  • Rajagopal, either upon the advice of an astrologer or having become besotted with deceased’s wife (PW1), had evinced a keen desire to take her as his third wife.
  • He helped PW1 financially and gave her costly gifts to gain her affection.
  • He and his henchmen abducted Santhakumar in an earlier attempt to kill him. Rajagopal had ordered his henchmen to kill Santhakumar but he managed to escape.
  • Meanwhile, Rajagopal took PW1 to an astrologer to remove the alleged influence of witchcraft (black magic) which was allegedly the cause of her being in love with Santhakumar.
  • When Santhakumar contacted his wife after escaping, she convinced him to come back and later, he, along with his wife, went to seek Rajagopal’s mercy, thus revealing to him that he was still alive.
  • Rajagopal again made a plan to kill Santhakumar and abducted the couple. He then handed over Santhakumar to his henchmen and ordered them to ‘finish him off’. Rajagopal took off with PW1.
  • Rajagopal took PW1 and her family to an astrologer again where PW1 was made to undergo certain rituals in the presence of the Rajagopal’s second wife.
  • Later, much to her shock, PW1 learnt that these rituals were traditionally conducted by the wife after the death of her husband. This made her suspicious and she lodges and FIR.

Circumstantial evidence

The prosecution mainly relied upon three circumstances to prove the guilt of the accused, i.e. motive, the last seen circumstance and the recovery of the dead body at the instance of the accused.  An additional link in the chain of circumstances is the non­explanation by the accused about the last seen circumstance in their statement recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C.

Noticing that there is no direct evidence in this matter and the whole case rests on circumstantial evidence, the Court said that the evidence of PWs 1 and 2 with regard to the motive for commission of the offence, the last seen circumstance and recovery as well as the identification of the dead body is consistent with the case of the prosecution.   The Court also took note of the fact that one of accused made a confession based on which, recoveries of a wallet containing a photograph of PW1, gold chain etc were effected from his house.

Ruling

Stating that the prosecution has fully proved that Rajagopal had murdered Santhakumar by strangulating him and thereafter throwing the dead body at Tiger­Chola, the Court said:

“It is worth recalling that while it is necessary that proof beyond reasonable doubt should be adduced in all criminal cases, it is not necessary that such proof should be perfect, and someone who is guilty cannot get away with impunity only because the truth may develop some infirmity when projected through human processes.”

The Court, hence, concluded that the chain of circumstances is complete and points solely at the guilt of Rajagopal.

[Pattu Rajan v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 444, decided on 29.03.2019]

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