July 21st, 2011
04:22 PM ET

Hindu diners sue Indian restaurant for selling meat samosas

By Moni Basu and Chelsea Bailey, CNN

(CNN) - A small tray of vegetable samosas costs $35 at the Mughal Express restaurant. But one particular tray, sold to strict Hindu vegetarians, might end up costing the Edison, New Jersey, restaurant a whole lot more.

The Hindu customers said the restaurant served them meat samosas, harming them emotionally and spirituality. A state appellate court ruled Wednesday that they can sue for the cost of travel to India to purify their souls.

Two summers ago, Durgesh Gupta and Sharad Agrawal walked into the popular Mughal Express on Oak Tree Road, in the heart of Edison's Indian community, and ordered samosas. They were strict vegetarians, they said in making sure there was no meat in their order of the traditional Indian snack.

Gupta said a restaurant employee assured them that it did not make meat samosas, according to court documents. A half-hour later, the two men picked up a tray labeled "VEG samosas."

But after Gupta and his group of 16 people began eating the triangular deep-fried pastries, they grew concerned they were eating meat. When they went to return the uneaten samosas, the restaurant said it had made a mistake, court documents showed.

Yes, the vegetarians had consumed meat and believed they were complicit in inflicting death and injury to God's creatures.

They sued Mughal Express but a lower court deemed they did not have a case - until this week, when the appellate court reversed that decision.

What the 16 Hindus want is compensation for a trip to the Hindu holy town of Haridwar, India, where the Ganges begins its downward flow to the ocean. There, they want to take dips in the river and, by Hindu belief, cleanse their souls of sin.

And they want the restaurant to pay for it all.

K. Raja Bhattacharya, the lawyer for the vegetarian diners, and David Novack, an attorney representing the restaurant, both declined comment because the case is ongoing.

In 2002, McDonald's Corp. paid $10 million to Hindu, vegetarian and other groups in order to settle a lawsuit against the company for failing to disclose that beef flavoring was used in French fries.

The company began advertising the fries were vegetarian after they switched to vegetable oil to reduce cholesterol, but the fries contained small amounts of beef flavoring added at the processing plant.

But the McDonald’s case may have been more compelling because it was not just an isolated incident of accidental service of meat, said Suhag Shukla, legal council for the Hindu American Foundation.

The Mughal Express customers who sued thought it otherwise. An Indian restaurant should have been more sensitive to this issue, they argued.

Still, some Hindus felt the diners were taking things too far. They doubted whether there was any karmic debt associated with the consumption of meat.

Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society in Edison, suggested the diners could easily go to a temple to cleanse their souls.

Indian-Americans have much to be grateful for in America, he said, and the lawsuit takes advantage of a U.S. judicial system that has afforded them individual protections.

"I understand how they feel," Kothari said. "I myself am a Hindu. But this is hypocrisy of the law."

And of religion, he said. "If you are a true religious person, God teaches you to forgive."

He did not know the diners, he said, but they should be ashamed for bringing a bad name not just to Hindus but to the
Indian-American community.

As for Mughal Express, there were no non-vegetarian samosas on the online menu Thursday.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Food • Hinduism • New Jersey

soundoff (1,722 Responses)
  1. Gaurav

    Just some Indians trying to get a free trip to india. It is the summer after all. God is everywhere. Go clense yourself at the local temple. Mistakes happen. Does not mean you will start suing the job creators!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  2. Murali

    If they are so specific about Veg... they shouldn't have stepped in to Mughal Express. These are bunch of greedy idiots who want a free trip to India.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • Thomas McVeigh

      And stoopid too – who in their right minds would WANT to go to India, for gods sake? Crowded, groping, and having to sit ontop of crowded trains?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  3. Deepak

    Are they crazy to charge $35 for small plate of samosas, that is extortion.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  4. diaz

    Send these pakis back to their filthy country for good. Good for us and them!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Sam

      they're not pakis you dimwit, they're indian

      July 22, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  5. louisiana

    i myself am a hindu and i think that this is ridiculous abuse of the judicial system, this is a frivolous lawsuit like so many others that we see and should be taken as seriously as other ridiculous lawsuits, shame on these people for making all of us look bad

    July 22, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  6. Vijay

    Not sure why all these people are going on rants. The customers are vegetarians and as per their religion, tradition and culture they dont eat meat. lets respect that. The restaurant clearly failed and i think they should pay for these hindu's to cleanse themselves. I see no issues with this at all. People who are ranting either dont understand the religion or are just ignorant or just hate hindus.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Gaurav

      Are you one of the diners that are suing.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  7. Ryan

    Its all about money,

    July 22, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  8. Raju kumar

    some muslim restaurant owner try to insult hindu doing thing like this god plz give them a lesson this is country of law if u try to screw someone people will screw you too.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Harold from HArold & Kumar

      I bet you really wanna try one

      July 22, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  9. mussieface

    this is so interesting and a little sad. I must agree that it seems that these diners are definitely taking full advantage of the US judicial system to get overly reimbursed for a mistake that the waiter seemed to have made. Especially since it was a hindu owned restuarant. people make mistakes all the time. we should learn to forgive but to also respect eachother's choices. i fully believe that it is admirable that they have stuck to the tenats of hinduism and choose to be vegetarian. however, i highly doubt it is required of them to go to India to purify their souls.. if that was the case then i know many hindus that should follow suit!

    regardless, i know how it feels to have eaten something thinking it was something else. as a muslim, finding bacon bits in almost everything you bite into at work events is not uncommon. on that note, i have never sued, nor considered suing anyone for that reason, nor will i make anyone pay for my trip to Mecca to make hajj so that i get my clean slate from sinning.

    plus.. isnt a sin defined by the knowledge of it? one has not sinned unless doing so knowingly, correct? or maybe thats just a muslim thing. :/

    July 22, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  10. Shikari Shambu

    Run a YouTube search for "Ganges River – Pollution". Check out the first link.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:26 am |
  11. Colin in Florida

    If they were true vegetarians, how did they know what meat tastes like? Or was it that they just tasted a whole lot better than the normal vegetarian things they eat?

    July 22, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Murali

      I think they know how a veg samosa taste like.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • marh

      youre kidding right?
      when you expect to taste vegetables and instead taste something else that seems like protein, isnt it logical to question whether there might be meat in it?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:39 am |
  12. An Atheist’s Perspective

    Not sure what the big deal is. I'm vegetarian and restaurants mess up my orders all the time. The solution is easy, point out that the order got messed up and ask them to fix it. If they keep messing it up or just don't care then go to a different restaurant. Suing over this is just absolutely ridiculous.

    Also, if it is that important to your beliefs then perhaps you should just cook your own food.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  13. Kishore

    People working in restaurants must be more careful about what they are serving. In this case I may agree that the dinners are taking it too far but I on the other hand as a customer I am deeply hurt. What if the dinners are allergic to meat? Would the situation look the same? We see so many people allergic to nuts and dairy and gluten. Would you take this situation the same way if the dinners were allergic to meat? Dont tell me you would not pay more attention because they are allergic to meat. I appreciate the fact that the customers are holding on their true values by continuing to be a vegetarian where normal daily diet in US is meat and wheat.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • jkgstl

      Allergic to meat? Are you serious?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Colin in Florida

      I am offended by your comments. As a chef in a catering company, I know that in every place I have worked, people take allergies and special requests like vegetarian very carefully and seriously. Mistakes still happen, but they are not always the restaurants fault.

      Recently, at an wedding I worked at, a couple came up to me carrying their infant son, who was developing a rash. They asked in the chicken dish contained egg? I said no. They asked about the sauce-did it have eggs? Again, I said no. I asked about their kid-was he allergic to eggs? They said yes. So I asked them if he had eaten any potatoes. They said yes, he had the mashed potatoes. I said they were not mashed potatoes, but duchess potatoes, and duchess potatoes contain eggs. So they drove him to the hospital (he was checked out and back in less than 2 hours, as he had only a tiny amount).

      Was this our fault? Obviously not, but they could still sue us, I guess. And even though their kid has a serious egg allergy, they:
      1. DId not ask if anything contained eggs before feeding the kid some of everything on the plate.
      2. They did not have an epi-pen (I know, I asked).

      So, who's at fault here? And who would get sued if the kid had been injured?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:41 am |
    • JC

      You are just stupid.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Mark

      @jkgstl It's just an analogy. Allergy to peanuts, meat, radishes, your grandmother, whatever. The point is that a mixup is a mixup and is the restaurant's fault. However I feel that asking for a free trip to India is ridiculous and excessive. What if my religion demanded showers of gold to cleanse me? The restaurant should apologize but not be held culpable. Their reputation as a Hindu vegetarian establishment is already damaged by this.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  14. Makayla

    $35 dollar small plate of samosas? Holy crap.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  15. BCA

    Sounds like a bunch of people need to get over themselves

    July 22, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  16. Psssh...

    You ate a piece of meat, get over it. There are starving children this very moment, be grateful enough you have money to buy food. Start worrying about all the bug parts we ingest from our food every year, lame asses.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  17. anana


    July 22, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  18. mscara

    Typical. I've seen this a LOT. Always Indian people wanting the most for the least, or something for nothing... smh.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Annoyed citizen

      This is such a disgusting generalization of Indian people. While I agree that this seems to be a frivolous lawsuit in order to obtain a secondary gain, I do not believe this should be an opportunity for all of you to be obnoxious, small-minded, borderline to blatant racists towards Indians. People of all races try to use the legal system for their own financial gain in similarly ridiculous manners and yet they are not being taken to task on this board.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  19. princezoltan

    I was raised Hindu, I was on a trip when I was younger with Swami Bhashyananda from the Vedanta Society. We were invited to a person house for dinner, they served him ham, a person saw it and said I see you like ham. He responded that he was given it and respect for the host it was his obligation as a Hindu to eat it.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  20. Am Hindu but this is ridiculous

    Basically those 16 miser people want a cheap return trip to India for $35 they paid for the samosas! Simply ridiculous! I liked the point the lawyer puts forward – Hinduism teaches the first and foremost thing is to forgive, if you are a so called "true hindu" follow that rule first!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • srini

      LOL..they came to this country and adopted few rules/things(suing someone for nothing/small) at least. Poor guys doesn't even know what is suing before they land here. ...so is it a sin if a Hindu suing? Just think before reply.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Umesh

      I am by birth hindu but skeptical about god. I eat all kinds of meat. But If I order something and a something different comes in my plate, I would definitely complain about it. They were vegetarians and already asked about the Veg Samosas but the waiter served them non-veg Samosas. Now, I would really be screwed to chew what I didn't order. It is a matter of their self respect and devotion to Hinduism and it really hurted them when the restaurant owner didn't respect that. US has got great judiciary system so they should be benefited of what the judge decrees.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:40 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.