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. malmn

    I have Hindu friends and I've been to India. They take this stuff seriously, and we should respect that. That's the nice and human way to do things.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Yim

      Same applies to your message – There is a difference between having allergies and having religious beliefs. If you are allergic to peanuts, you ask for no peanuts, and you're served peanuts you will incur physical harm. This is not what happened with the Hindus in the article. Everyone has a right to believe in whatever religion they want. They don't have a right to impose their religious beliefs on someone else.....it's one of the biggest reasons why this country was founded. If they feel a need to purify their soul due to their belief it is fine and dandy but they need to do it on their own dime.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  2. I = rubber, U = glue

    Arguing that "What if it were something they were allergic too," does not apply to this case. In my opinion, one must prove negative results of the action to have a reasonable lawsuit, it is not about "What if's".

    It's easy to say "Here are my medical bills for making me eat something I'm allergic too, please pay for this." It is a little tougher to say "You made me eat broccolli, and i hate broccoli, now pay for my vacation."

    The way i see it, there was no physical harm done to these diners. That makes the case into "You have offended my beliefs." which is a much tougher case to win than "You put me in the hospital."

    July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Brooklynite

      There are adverse effects when strict vegetarians eat meat. The body doesn't know how to process that type of fuel and often rejects it. It can make a person very sick and for several days, not unlike food poisoning in some cases. Even meat based broths can make a vegetarian extremely ill. So it's not that far from an allergic reaction; the body doesn't know how to process that item and reacts.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • I = rubber, U = glue

      Understood, but that did not happen to these diners. It's hard to sue for what could have happened, which to me makes this case solely about "Offending ones religion."

      If one of these diners did have to be treated then i would agree with you.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  3. Gaddffly

    The courts are used to dealing with tainted souls,,, but doesn't this open the door to patrons suing resturants for just about any silly complaint? As a strict Pastafarian, I want assurance that the cooking and serving utinsels in my resturants are used for pasta only, no contamination !!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • malmn

      You're an idiot.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Gaddffly

      to malmn,,, Were you born without a sense of humor??? hahahaha

      July 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  4. Denise Meally

    In the Bible, when Jesus is being questioned about strict adherence to Jewish dietary laws, He says "it is what comes out of a man's mouth, not what he puts into it, that defiles him." While I respect the various reasons people choose to follow certain dietary rules, if you unintentionally break one of them I feel you have been made "unclean". It should be the intention of one's actions that matters the most in these situations.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • well

      That is how it works for Jews and Muslims. I think it works that way for Hindus as well, unless they can get a free vacation out of it.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  5. Jose

    Hey Hindus , which of your holy scriptures says this ? or which God said you not to eat non-veg ?. you have millions of god's . you consider snake as god , cow as god, sun as god and worship all these creatures .
    If people eat non-veg,do they goes to hell ???
    stupid concept .

    July 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • reg

      jose. go back to mexico

      July 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • CK

      Go back to mexico taco bell!

      July 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  6. Topaz

    People get rid off the notion that HINDUISM is a form of religion. It is NOT a religion. It is a cluster of beliefs, orthodoxies and individual personalities. It is a very complicated system of way of life. Every Hindu can make his or own rules, their own GODS and start praying. It is interesting, many Hindus who live on the coastal areas – esp east, south and west coasts eat seafood and even chicken. These are all classified as high class Hindu Brahmins. This always a paradox to me. Hindus can be utterly selfish and self centered not caring about their next door neighbors. They are not generous with their money – except when pouring money into mindless religious rituals. I am not a Vedic scholar but as I was told that there was NO mention of ban on eating meat in any of the Hindu scriptures. All Hinduism stresses it respect for nature and love of all living creatures. Nothing about meat eating. These people who sued the restaurant are total jerks and they should not have been won the legal battle. If these people are so hung up on the vegetarian diet, first of all they should not have eaten outside of their home. Secondly, they are not fit to live in a country where meat is the staple food item. They should have stayed in their home country and take daily dips in Holy Ganges! These people want US dollars but do not want to blend in with the rest of the society. Shame on you Indians! On a second thought, I wonder what would have happened if the restaurant served an item made with pork to a MUSLIM !

    July 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • malmn

      You're an a$$.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Jose

      You are 100 % correct

      July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      On the one hand the Muslims eat no pork, but on the other hand they eat meat, which is produced by animal torture. They have a real jerk-like religion.

      This evening I will eat a grilled swine.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Ram

      Well said Topaz. You are very knowledgeable. At the same time, a restaurant serving pork to Muslims? They will end up in the hit-list of Al Qaeda!! They don't believe in courts or legal systems.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  7. Padmanabham

    Negligence has a price to it. The word 'Sorry' alone would not cut it. I feel sorry for both parties.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  8. God is Crap

    I wonder how many of the people commenting are Jews who won't eat pork, or Catholics who only eat fish on Friday?

    Of course, it may not be a god thing... some people actually think it's wrong ( I KNOW!!! - sarcasm) to kill and eat other living things when we're capable of surviving without taking life.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  9. well

    What river do they wash in to clean the stink of their foul greed and unforgiveness? It was a mistake.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • JErome

      : )

      July 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • CK

      atleast not in ur mama's pu$$y

      July 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  10. Penny

    I'm still stunned that the plate of samosas cost $35!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  11. Joe

    Why must these people go to India to "cleanse their souls"? So if they live in the US and then (anytime) damage their souls they have to travel to India. That is the only solution? Really?

    I am so happy to be an atheist...

    July 22, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Cassie

      You and me both. It's so much tastier to be a nontheist. 🙂

      July 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Ram

      Just like Jews go to Israel, Muslims go to Mecca, the Hindus want to go to India. Nothing wrong in that. It is just their belief. But I do think that the Hindus are taking this case too far. Just a big fine for the restaurant will be enough. The restaurant will not do it again and also some revenue for the state!

      July 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • well

      There is no God. I know this because there is no evidence. Of course there is no evidence for string theory, but smart people tell me it makes sense, so I believe them. Oh and these same smart people don't know what 97% of the universe is made of, but that doesn't shake my faith in them. They made up names for the missing 97% so they are on top of things. I are smarter than dumb God people. They is the dumb ones. I are proud to be atheist.

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

      @well: I'm sorry you live your life in such fear of death that you cling to any hope, regardless of how slim, that you won't die. It must be horrible.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  12. Dan

    Two words come to mind – Oh brother!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  13. Allah

    people R such IDIOTS when it come to 'god' – U'r filthy souls will never be cleansed, meat or no meat....

    July 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • CK

      There are people who have clean souls(in real, like mohammad in Islam, Jesus in Christianity and Sean Connery in James Bond movies) may be one of these 16 is the next. Let them have it their way. I agree the restaurant has made a mistake, and they ought to pay for it. And by the way, its my strongest feelings that you will never be able to cleanse ur soul, whatever you might do, you will live a sinner and die the same way.

      And I am an ATHEIST.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  14. Terry

    We have our new "Television Reality Show". We will call it "Sue the Suckers".

    July 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  15. Alex

    this article has "train wreck message board thread" written all over it. i'm not gonna get into a carnivore vs herbivore debate. that said, i think they need to prove that there was some sort of intent on the part of the restaurant owners. if it's an accident, then i don't think they should be able to sue for trips to india to clean their souls.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • fearisenemy

      Have them prove that their souls are now dirty because of the meat and have them also prove that they only their trip to India will cleanse them. Everyone else has be prove everything. Why not people who's live are run by religion.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  16. alkoholic

    Is there anything about not screwing your neighbor in Hinduism?. This is why I am proud to be an atheist.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  17. Cow is Yummy!


    July 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  18. Mom of 3

    The dip in the Ganges is going to do them a lot more harm than any samosas would.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  19. Sue

    I'm suing Mcdonalds for putting Cheese on my hamburger.

    July 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • BAM

      You act like it's never happend

      July 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  20. BrewtownPsych

    this is ridiculous, unfortunately there is no soul to be purified so a court of law should not entertain such nonesense.

    July 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Allah


      July 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • fearisenemy

      I second that emotion.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39
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.