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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. Jesus Patel

    OceanLight wake up, no Jesus. That's a fairy tale! You should respect other people's beliefs you loser.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:42 am |
    • are

      Are you the one running the grocery store down the st?How did you get here?

      July 22, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • gogolac

      THANK U, COME AGAIN

      July 22, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Indian

      Mr. patel,

      Please wake up from your ignorance . Jesus is the only God . I am a purely an indian . Who have received lot of miracles from Jesus . If you say No Jesus then No peace in your life . You are the loser . if you say no Jesus are you respecting other belief's ??

      July 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  2. SWAMI NAGNANNDA (NAKED) from Indian Ashram

    SWAMI NAGNANNDA (NAKED) from India

    Send them here..we will purify their body and soul @cheap rate...Outsourced!!

    July 22, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  3. T

    T

    Aren't these the same people who "Honor" kill their daughters and sisters because they fall in love with the wrong "type" of person. And they think that eating the wrong food will get them in trouble?

    Allow me to let you in on a little secret. No God worth worshiping would ever allow a person who kills his own daughter or sister into a 'Heaven" type place. So if you agree with Honor killings, you might want to just go ahead and order the steak......

    July 22, 2011 at 5:05 am |
    • Sunny

      Wrong religion moron.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • Sunny

      My brothers wife is caucasian and so is my girlfriend. Im indian myself. You have this "honor killling" in mostly families that are muslim. Oh and dont forget about the white trailer trash hating on people of other color.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:10 am |
  4. Sunny

    If you go to England there are plenty of places to find Samosas filled with various types of meats. Nobody complains. I'm a gujarati hindu myself and I was ecstatic to find chicken filled samosas when i visited a foreign country. Its just a food. If god gets mad over what u eat, then he really needs to re-prioritize his life.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • gremlinus

      Vegetarian was specified, there was a mistake on the restaurant's part. Again, what if the screw up had been an allergy and someone had died? A screw up is a screw up.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:04 am |
    • Sunny

      @gremlinus
      Well arent you the most perfect person in the world.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:07 am |
    • Sunny

      You dont really find an indian person allergic to meat. and go based on facts not "what ifs". It was an accident. their money was refunded. End of story.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • Projection

      Sunny boy – you seem to know everything as well.. you are so freely speaking for vegetarians as well as the people in this story.

      how would you like to find a dead rat in your samosa? A human finger? An eye ball?

      Doesnt sound very appetising does it? Hey – it is well cooked – why would you not eat it? why would you feel repulsed? what? an apology not enough?

      July 22, 2011 at 5:16 am |
    • Sunny

      @projection
      lets see, my parents are hindu vegetarian, so are both sets of grandparents. Whenever they had come upon a place that accidently served meat. only once did they ask for a refund on food because the place made the mistake back to back. They always thought that we are just humans, and we arent perfect. Humans make mistakes. This is a food. IT was a meat that was being eaten by other people. IT was a Rat or a finger. So stop trying to argue over things that it wasnt. IT was a meat like chicken or lamb. Something was allready commonly eaten by others. My own grandmother is a strict vegetarian. She only eats out of her own plate and drinks out of her own glass. has never eaten out. But even she tells me that people can make mistakes. Im no expert, but I learn from some that are.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  5. jimmy the freak

    Organized religion is the scourge of mankind.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • gremlinus

      Sorry but this goes beyond religion. What if those things had contained something that someone had a food allergy toward? What if they had killed someone instead of just affecting them on a religious level? Restaurants should be held accountable for such a blatant screw up.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  6. bombastinator

    in other news Hindu scammers have made vegetarian restaurant food illegal in the United states.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  7. MG

    Ask them to denounce the US citizenship,if they have one and quit the US job and go back to Ganges or Himalaya for the sake of eternal purification of their souls...

    July 22, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  8. H

    There is one more flaw with the lawsuit.

    According to orthodox Hindu tradition, strict vegetarians are not allowed to consume any food from a kitchen where meat is prepared.

    This is similar to the reason why Orthodox Jews will only eat from a kosher kitchen.

    So....if pure vegetarianism is so important to them, they should have stuck to a vegetarian Indian restaurant, and there are many pure vegetarian Indian Restaurants out there.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:39 am |
    • Which tradition?

      Hinduism has many traditions. Which tradition are you talking about?

      The restaurant screwed up bigtime and has to pay for it.

      Hinduism is not the same as Judaism.
      Even with Kosher food, you would be held liable if you dont follow Kosher practices.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:52 am |
    • gremlinus

      Yep, obviously this restaurant caters to a strict crowd and they enjoy profits from them. They should have been more careful.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  9. lol

    I was the manager at a popular casual restaurant and had an Indian family dining with us – they tried to claim that the father (strict vegetarian Hindu) had chicken on his salad. The chicken was obviously taken from his son's plate. They were from London and when they returned home they tried to pull the same "I've got to go to India to be cleansed". They took it to court in London and got completely shot down and the restaurant company refused to offer them any compensation. I will never forget the man telling me "I feel like I've got a creature in my belly".

    July 22, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • Imagine

      eating a piece of human meat. Gross? hell yea... That is how a vegetarian feels when eating animal meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:54 am |
  10. raj

    Put these guys together in a room for a week without anything to eat or drink..They will eat each other.

    July 22, 2011 at 4:28 am |
    • Pervert

      You can join your friend Levi Aron in New York and fantasize about consuming people..

      July 22, 2011 at 4:57 am |
  11. Sarah

    Honest mistakes do happen and the restaurant owners were sorry about it. Why not forgive them and move on?

    July 22, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • Jesse

      If you are strict vegetarian then go to a strict vegitarian Place. If your taste buds are forcing you to go elsewhere then Murakh look before putting any thing in your behind.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • I agree

      I agree with this idea, but this is America. It is not all about forgive and forget. Their personal convictions may be much stronger than the desire to forgive.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:59 am |
  12. rk

    Most of the vegetables they eat in India are rich in banned pesticides and it hosts all varieties of bacteria and fungi.They never got offended. Wondering, since when the court agreed the existence of soul...we are still debating...

    July 22, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Who are "they"?

      All people eat vegetables. The ones who do not look like ye scurvy dogs and do not last long to tell their story.

      The nonsense you are spouting off about pesticides applies to big cities only. Poor villages fortunately do not have access to pesticides to spray on measily vegetables, hence are saved of the misfortune of consuming pesticides.

      Bacteria and fungi are not animals. microbes are omnipresent – within and on your body as well. In case you forgot, vegetarianism abstains from eating meat and body parts of animals.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  13. sam

    This Gupta and Agarwal ,perhaps, would not have bothered about this ,if it happened in India.These two misguided the court as eating non-veg doesn't need purification of soul..rather their malicious thoughts need to be purified.

    With this money ,you can probably find them in the brothels of Bombay or Delhi

    I am also form India.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • HG

      Oh my what a story!

      For the non-Hindues readng this, I have some comments.

      I am from an orthodox strict vegetarian Hindu background.

      I've been a strict vegetarian since I was born, and I maintained my strict vegetarianism and grew up in America having maintained my strict vegetarian habits. I also do not drink alcohol as it is forbidden by my religion.

      Having said all that...there is nothing in our religion that states that one has to go and dip in the Ganges to purify one's soul just because meat was accidentally consumed. That's a boatload of BS.

      These lawsuits are either a product of greed or a product of vengeance and inability to forgive others – I'm not sure which of the two is involved here. However, both greed and inability to forgive are against the Hindu way of life.

      Hinduism is all about simple living, forgiveness, tolerance and nonviolence.

      As to those posters making offensive racist comments about Indians, their alleged odor or whatever you idiots have to say, please do not demonize an entire race just because you had some negative encounters with some people who just happened to Indian.

      Please recognize what the physicist Richard Feynman once said – Good and bad people are to be found in all races of man.

      I too have met some Indians that I don't like at all, but I don't demonize my whole race because of that.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • Projection

      Sam – good projecting your thoughts on a few people who know nothing about. Brothels eh?

      HG – simple living is Hinduism? I actually appreciate your audacity to condense and generalize "Hinduism" in a sentence. I guess you can teach the bazillion philosophers a thing or two.

      Snark remarks aside, "taking bath in Ganga" is very widely acknowledged iand practiced in many Hindu subcultures. You better look outside your own well.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • Projection

      HG – also please stop apologizing to racists on everyone's behalf.

      If people think deoderant makes a man (or woman), that shows their cheap outlook in life.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:12 am |
    • SWAMI NAGNANNDA (NAKED) from India

      Send them here..we will purify their body and soul.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:16 am |
  14. Balaji (South Indian Brahmin)

    I am very proud to say I am a south Indian Brahmin. I remember "MAHATMA GANDHI" in his life time memoir/ He consumed some Non-veg item (Lamb) He felt very bad and had dreams like the Goat is crying and there after he gave up eating non veg items.
    According to "Bhagavat Gita" too, if you did something unknowingly and repent for it, there is no sin committed. Don't have to travel to India at other's expense. Then you are doing the same sin again. "Surrender to Lord" is the key word. Every religion teaches the same thing in their own way.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:50 am |
    • Amarnath

      you did not have to declare that you are a south indian brahmin to your point you stupid

      July 22, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • rk

      You can find a quote in Gita to justify all actions including killing your own brother!!! so take it easy...

      July 22, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Thomas McVeigh

      I also met the Great Soul Ghandi...in return for some words of wisdom, I changed his diaper.

      Homespun Sucks, Buy british

      July 22, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  15. maher

    One very important thing that those Hindu people should address in their religion is intention. If you eat the samosas with the intent that its vegetarian then your intent is pure and you should not to hindu hell for doing that as you intended to eat a vegetarian one. The whole religion thing is based on intention not just rules, because if you follow you religion rules but your intention is somewhere else your prayers are going to be for nothing. I think if those hindus think about what they are doing, they should realize that they are harming their god as being not fair to them because even though they intented to eat vegetarian they are still blamed for their action. if you hit kill somebody by car accidant that is the pedistrain fault should you get death penalty??

    July 22, 2011 at 3:46 am |
  16. Amarnath

    The ganges river is one of the most polluted rivers in India. I wonder if it really helps.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • Amarnath

      a dip in ganges river = clean soul, stinking self

      July 22, 2011 at 3:43 am |
    • Location Location Location

      Upstream Ganges – still pure and refreshing.

      Downstream Ganges – carries the burden of human sins.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  17. QED

    This is a little tangential, but I have to say that I get my natural buzz on every time I hear about a Black dude or Mexican dude beating the living sh¡t out of some White dude in an MMA match. White ßitches (aka, basement dwelling losers) who wasted their time smoking out in high school, are good for zip... that's why today they're the whining, xenophobic, a-høles, they are. I'm just sayin'...

    July 22, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • But

      But we have jobs and are not locked up in jail. Maybe it has something to do with controlling our tendencies to violence. Just sayin.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:07 am |
  18. Deficit Reduction Plan

    A great new way to save the economy, let them go to india and not come back. It they canot get cleansed in the USA, then why be here.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • Amarnath

      hoping that dems and republicans read these comments ... and seal the deal

      July 22, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  19. mark

    they have truly become americans. religious ones at that. assimilation is complete....
    it's a good thing they don't have to go to the moon to be cleansed.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • Projection

      LOL. By far the sanest and funniest comment I am reading on this story.

      Kudos to you good sir!

      July 22, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  20. jenn

    Sure, send them there. But if it cannot be proven within a court of law that dipping in the ganges has indeed purified their souls, don't let them back in.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • Projection

      The whole point of religion is that it doesnt need proof.

      July 22, 2011 at 5:22 am |
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About this blog

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.