P. Rajagopal
The image of P. Rajagopal, founder of the Saravana Bhavan food chain, on a menu at one of the popular restaurants in Chennai. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: The trailblazing Indian founder of a global restaurant chain surrendered to a court on Tuesday after losing a last-ditch bid to avoid a life sentence for murdering a love rival.

P. Rajagopal rose from rags to riches to create the Saravana Bhawan chain which has more than 80 eateries in India and around the world, from Leicester Square to Lexington Avenue via Singapore, Sydney and Stockholm.

He had been battling for 15 years to avoid prison since being convicted over the killing of the husband of a woman he wanted to make his third wife, reportedly on the advice of his astrologer.

The 71-year-old, dubbed the "dosa king" after the famous South Indian food staple, was meant to have reported to prison on Sunday but made a final plea on medical grounds.

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.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant any relief to Saravana Bhavan restaurant chain owner P. Rajagopal, who sought extension of time to surrender citing medical grounds in a murder case.

The apex court asked Rajagopal's counsel if he was so ill, then why did he not mention his illness during the hearings? Then the court declined to give him relief.

Rajagopal, 71, also sought exemption from surrendering in jail and asked that his hospitalisation be treated as time spent behind bars. The court did not agree.

Rajagopal, founder of a restaurant chain popular in the country and overseas, was sentenced to 10 years in 2004 on charges of killing an employee whose wife he wanted to make his third wife.

When the woman refused the proposition, he ordered her husband killed.

Rajagopal was sentenced to life imprisonment. He moved the apex court to delay the beginning of his term on July 7, citing ill health.

Rajagopal was supposed to surrender on July 7 after his life conviction was upheld by the apex court in March. He moved the court on Monday, citing his hospitalisation and sought more time.