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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. Rainer Braendlein

    OMG!

    May God release us from cults like Hinduism (I mean the doctrine, but not the funny people).

    If I could, I would eat a whole grilled swine and a whole grilled ox at once. Regretably, my capacity is too small for this.

    I would not eat meat, which was produced by ritual slaughter, because ritual slaughter = animal torture.

    Kebab – no, thank you! Ugh, yuck!

    July 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • Anup

      Do i love your ignorance or what ? Just in case you missed it there are two different religions namely Hinduism and Islam the ritual killing happens in Islam not in Hinduism. I love the abundant ignorance here and then we wonder why our kids are falling behind in academics compared to other countries.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • chris

      Hinduism is not a cult. You must be sick in the head. Hinduism is a religion just like any other religion. So go to school and learn about life and don't a BUM.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Sam

      Whats it to you if hindus want to be vegitarian? No one is stopping you from eating meat.
      and if hinduism is a cult, so is every other religion. Its a debatable point, but you've got to realize it goes both ways

      July 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @ Anup

      Sorry, you got me wrong. It is clear that ritual slaughter belongs to Islam and Judaism. I meant it would be more meaningful to refuse meat, produced by ritual slaughter, than to refuse any meat (produced by correct slaughter).

      July 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • fearisenemy

      All religions are cults. Some are just better at hiding how much they are taking from you.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Jose

      You are right Rainer.

      Hinduism , is religion of confusion and man made stupid stories . They worship all snakes , cow,sun, trees etc ..
      they have millions of gods . you need to look at the whole body of some of their gods, they have several hands, heads, numerous eyes etc .. if you have such figure in your body, how will you look . really i get vomit by seeing their god's pictures .
      I am a poor i cannot afford to go india to celeanse my soul . If my soul not cleansed , i will be going to hell ..????
      Stupid concept , ignorance people ..

      July 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  2. Kevin

    posted to pikk – Hindus or Restaurant? Pikk a side – Restaurant serves vegetarians meat, lawsuit follows [POLL] – http://www.pikk.com/42f68

    July 22, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  3. Reality

    Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

    Current crises/problems:

    The caste system, incarnation, lack of protein and cow worship/reverence
    ==============================================================================

    July 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Randall

      There is no case here. If the people in question were this concerned about the state of their souls then they shouldn't have been going to business that sells meat. If by eating the meat they believe that they are indirectly murdering then by knowingly supporting a business that deals in meat makes them just as guilty. The most the business owner owes them is a free dinner for the mistake.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  4. Loquisha

    When the hell are business owners going to wise-up, stand up for themselves and tell all of the lawsuit-jockeys to collectively pound sand? You ate meat, you didn't murder anyone. If your God(s) can't handle you making a simple human mistake then they are not God(s).

    July 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  5. Colin

    No court should entertain such a stupid claim. If they want to believe in sky-fairies and magic rivers, fine, but such beliefs cannot get state mandated support, through any branch of government, legislative, executive or judiciary. To do so is to breach church-state separation.

    July 22, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  6. DelhiBoss

    A few comments.

    Restaurants make mistakes. It happens.

    If you immigrate to America then be prepared to assimilate into the culture.

    If you are so religious in your ways and eat Indian food all the time then please stay in India.

    July 22, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Indian

      You are absolutely correct

      July 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  7. Raj

    As a recent Hindu naturalized American, I'm compelled to respond. Some background on the restaurant – one of 4 or 5 owned by the Mehtanis, Moghul is widely regarded in the Indian American community as one of the best in the country, Most high profile Indian American events across the country are catered to by them. Undoubtedly some of the best Indian food in the country. That said – this was reckless of them. They should have known that vegetarianism is a core tenet to many Hindus and something like this could make some feel fundamentally violated. Some compensation is called for. I liken the appellate court ruling to a paid trip to the Vatican to get to say one's Hail Marys. Fair enough? I think so.

    As for the rest of the Hindu mud slinging on this forum, it is sad indeed. This bashing of a hard working and successful minority community is no different from what was first meted to the Jews in Germany. Such bigotry and ignorance is uncalled for. Aren't we at war fighting for our open-minded and accepting ways?

    July 22, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • fairboy

      Raj:
      That the restaurant made a mistake is not in question. And if you posit that the diners were harmed - fine. But what seems extreme here is the magnitude of the proposed award. How far do you go to 'cure' emotional/spiritual harm, in a way that is consistent and fair to all, now and in the future? For example, couldn't the diners simply get purified and cleansed by a local Hindu cleric/priest/official, at a local temple? Wouldn't that remedy be more proportional to the offense?

      July 22, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  8. shoaib

    Eating a non veg samosa harms the spirituallty and emotions but banning the veil making cartoons (allah forbid) of our prophet is a freedom of expression it does not hurt the spirtuallty and emotions of the muslims

    what a world

    July 22, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  9. cbd123

    If they accidentally ran over a squirrel with their car, would they then fly to India for purification??? Same thing as this!

    July 22, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  10. skylight

    would the muslims accept something like this , if they were to be served pork !.

    July 22, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  11. Stating the Obvious

    I think CNN should do an article on the sheer amount of mudslinging in the comments section. The hypocritical preaching from Christians, from Atheists, and from everyone in between is absurd! The Christians damn the Hindus and other non-Christians to hellfire. Atheists and other non-Christians lecture the Christians about religious tolerance while telling them that their religion is a lie or fairytale. All kinds of people making nasty and snide remark toward people who keep Halal, Kosher, or other dietary regimens(religious or otherwise) because not eating beef, snouts, and hooves is just... well it's just gosh darn un-American!

    As an American, born and raised in the South (meat-lovin' and make a mean rack o' ribs!), I feel sad, shocked, and appalled by the insanity, irrationality, and stupidity in the comments section.

    Do these comments reflect the true colors of the USA?

    July 22, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  12. ONE WHO BELEIVES

    SOCIETY HAS AND IS ALLOWING PEOPLE TO BELEIVE AND TRUST IN NOTHING, LEAVING EACH PERSON TO BELEIEVE IN WHAT THEY WANT AND NOW THAT IS EVERYBODYS RIGHT. SO WHY NEED A GOVERMENT TO LEAD? WHY NEED LAWS TO CONTROL? IF EVERYONES RIGHT IS TO BELELIVE HOWEVER AND WHATEVER THEY THINK IS RIGHT WE SHOULD HAVE A PERFECT WORLD SHOULDNT WE? DO WE? LETS HOPE THAT NON GOD BELIEVERS ARE RIGHT THAT THERE IS NO GOD AND IF NOT THEYVE LOST NOTHING IF SO THEY HAVE ETERNITY TO WISH THEY HAD.I THINK YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT THATS EACH PERSONS RIGHT BUT TEACHING NON BELIEF TAKES AWAY THE OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHERS TO KNOW THE TRUTH.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  13. cjh

    I love how a noticeable portion, although not majority, of the left claims to be so politically correct, and yet the majority of those, despite their professed acceptance of diversity, fail to see how a mistake like this could harm the people they claim to protect with their votes. Although the right has its fair share of warmongers and hypocrites, it seems as though, for the most part, it's them who get lambasted by the media, although the occasional dissenting or scandalous liberal sometimes gets the media on their backs. It just doesn't happen as often as with the right.
    Honestly, I'm a conservative. I hate lawsuits. I don't think this is a frivolous lawsuit, and that these people should have their trip to the Ganges paid for. If you have any knowledge of the Hindu faith, water from the Ganges is extremely sacred, and quite necessary for what these individuals desire to do.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  14. BIG MAC

    a hindu and a cow got stuck in a room...can anyone guess who ate who first ?

    July 22, 2011 at 6:04 am |
    • Answer

      story incomplete...A Pakistani hiding in the same room ate both.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • Haymarket, VA

      It is amazing how people are sue happy. If you have such strict dietary restrictions, it is probably best to eat at home. Many ethnic groups come to America and all rules are changed for them. Such a shame that as an American I cannot go to another country and demand such things. What have we become as a Nation. Such a sad case.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:16 am |
    • Anon Y. Mouse

      @Haymarket, VA –
      As a former Hindu turned atheist, normally, I would agree with you. However, it isn't like they walked into Applebee's and started making special requests from stuff not on the menu. They went to an Indian restaurant, and samosas are (almost) always a vegetarian dish. Therefore, their expectations were completely within line.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • Diplomat

      @Haymarket, VA,
      As an american? You are as much american as any immigrant.. Its just that your great grandad's grandad landed here 300 years earlier than the most recent illegal immigrants...lol...
      As an "american" you have a visa to travel to half the world... be happy about that!!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  15. Nivek

    So if this was 1911, would they take a boat over and back as steerage passengers so they could cleanse their selves. Is their faith such that they believe a simple, honest mistake will doom them? Then that is a sad commentary on God, which may be the greater sin.

    July 22, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Anon Y. Mouse

      This is a grab for money at its finest. I can't believe that SIXTEEN people ate the same meat samosas and didn't notice anything different on the first bite. Potato samosas have a different taste and texture than ground meat samosas.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  16. gogolac

    HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAA

    July 22, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  17. rami

    Give them some Drano, that should clean the crap out of them.. Case resolved. Easy

    July 22, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  18. His Boy Elroy

    I love a good grilled cheeseburger. God is not going to smite me. If you have to leave the country where your beliefs are the only place in the world they are accepted, then you better be willing to accept the standard of your new home. Don't expect us to be a melting pot that is without beef.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • Anon Y. Mouse

      They went to an INDIAN restaurant, and most Indian restaurants are aware of such dietary restrictions, and further more, advertise themselves as being "Vegetarian-friendly." Samosas are also traditionally a vegetarian item.

      July 22, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  19. Sir Craig

    Absolutely ridiculous. It was an honest mistake, and frankly the whole spiritual nonsense involved in this makes this case even more ludicrous.

    And OceanLight: There is no god. Deal with it.

    July 22, 2011 at 5:49 am |
  20. SWAMI NAGNANNDA (NAKED) from Indian Ashram

    BODY AND SOUL WILL BE PURIFIED @OUTSOURCED RATE..PLS VISIT MY ASHRAM

    July 22, 2011 at 5:48 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.