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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. mahesh bhalejwala

    They have not been to India for a long time.This the only way out.Shame on you.

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

    If the plaintiffs prevail, this small restaurant will go out of business and no one will take a trip for a dip in the Ganges.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Ruth

      That would make this vegetarian happy. You hae no idea how disgusting it is to order something vegetarian, after asking aand making sure it was vegetarian, and then biting into it finding out that it isn't.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  3. Wrawn

    I think the Restaurant should gather community support, & pay for their tickets.
    ONE WAY only!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  4. RichieP

    This is the biggest crock of s–t yet. If this incompetent judge can allow a person to sue another for offending his religious beliefs by accidently messing up his order, what's next? Can I sue somebody for offending my religious beliefs by intentionally saying mean things? How about I sue somebody for offending my religion by accidently stepping on my shadow, which I believe is my soul and is damaged by getting stepped on and the only way to fix the damage is a vacation to a five-star resort in Fiji?

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

      agreed

      July 22, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Gaddffly

      Agreed!! It's not the first time in thier lives they have accidently eaten meat and it won't be the last. Get over it and move on.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Cassie

      You nailed that one on the head. Look for more crack pot lawsuits in the near future.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Sean

      Like

      July 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  5. Jamin

    Pradip Kothari also known as Peter Kothari. Keep in mind, he has business associations...so obviously he's going to say something that favors business. Peter Kothari organizes events where it is wide known where underage kids drinking, ....

    I'd say sue the hell out of it.....

    July 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  6. shiv

    I wonder,how by dipping into ganges,will clean your views about all religion?A mistake by a human to other,without intent,
    should be pardoned,which will do your cleanning act,just by going to U.S.A rivers,atleats they all look cleaner.
    Common donot fight over my religion over others.Simple pardon is suffice and that is an Hindu belief.Do you see $$$$ sign
    or what=Beliefe=Hinduism........i wonder,lateris true...

    July 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  7. Ken

    This is a nonsensical waste of US dollars and time. These people (Hindus) need to see in the mirror how pure their souls are. How many innocent people (hundreds of thoudands) they have killed in India in ethnic cleansing in Punjab and other places. Eating a samosa with meat isnt going to dirty their souls and taking a dip in the Ganges isnt going to purify them. It is their actions in this world that will determine their afterlife....

    July 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Iqbal

      Oh really, what do you know about Punjab? Don't pass such comments by sitting in US. Whatever happened in Punjab was a political issue and terrorism took place with the help of ISI (Pakistan), Hindus were the actual sufferers who were dragged out from the buses, made to stand in line and then shot at once and this was routine work of terrorists from 1985 to late 90's. So, please don't make assumptions when you do not know the real truth.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Gaddffly

      I agree, to avoid all meat you would have to avoid all food. Don't east bread because some small insect may have been ground up in the grain milling. Don't eat salad because some tiny bug may have been mixed in. Etc,etc. People can be such a pain !

      July 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • MSMAJEED

      This is a very sensitive issue, and I appreciate the feelings of these people. Employees do make costly mistakes, and this is no exception. If these people believe that they can only be cleanse by the Ganges then so be it. Some Hindus believe that they can only be cremated at the Ghat by the Ganges. But, I feel that this matter should have been amicably settled without going to Court. Hindu priests and Hindu organizations should have got involved. Sadly, this restaurant may now have to close down.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  8. Yoba

    Hinduism is the only religion that does not prosthelytize. It is also not organized, i.e. people blindly following the rules laid down by one or more leaders, now long dead. It is a religion but more importantly, it is a list of principles that you may choose (if you wish) to follow to lead a more pure, spriritual life by doing good deeds and helping your neighbors. It teaches you to obey the good inside you, not the ramblings of some nutter. There is no conversion ceremony, conversion economic incentives or contributions required. Some ignorant folk attribute caste discrimination to hinduism but there is nothing in the scriptures that can be even misinterpreted to mean the subjugation of people. The only downside to hinduism is the adherence to non-violence, which is why they were invaded by the Muslims (Arabs) and Christians (Portugal, England, Holland etc). Though now it means we don't produce terrorists or extremists. Yes, hindus worship idols, which are symbolic of the world we live in i.e. the animals, birds, nature, the elements etc. And worship in this case = respect, We dont kill in their name. The people who sued the restaurant repeatedly asked for vegetarian food and the restaurant owner pretended to care but didn't. IHe may have even done it out of spite – time will tell. f a muslim or jewish person had been fed pork, the same thing would have happened.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Iqbal

      In India samosas are always made of potatoes, onions etc...when people try to modify the original recipes just for some meat-eaters who would like to go to Indian restaurant..they are changing the original recipe and no one should appreciate it. The restaurant owner should be punished for his ignorance and why are people bringing Hinduism or religion here when these people themselves do not leave any opportunity to sue anyone for money. Also, I'm really surprised when people say "wastage of US dollars"...how do you define wastage?? When the money keeps on lying in someone's account or when there is actual flow of money?

      July 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Shira

      to Yoba, You are very right. It is absolutely wrong what the restaurant did. You are wrong where proselytization is concerned though. Jewish religion also does not allow it. The dietay laws are very strict and are so for a reason. The restaurant is guilty in forcing a fellow hindu to break that law. For those who are not observant please try to keep an open mind. There is no reason to be judgemental.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Sean

      @Iqbal

      “try to modify the original recipes just for some meat-eaters”

      Hate to break this to you buddy, but the majority of people in the world are meat-eaters. The restaurant was also in the U.S.A. and told them before the order they made a meat version along with a veggy.
      Are you suggesting a restaurant in the U.S.A should only serve food approved by ONE group of people from India?

      The wastage they are referring to is over this nonsense of a lawsuit. I’ll reference another commenter who said it well:
      1. RichieP
      This is the biggest crock of s–t yet. If this incompetent judge can allow a person to sue another for offending his religious beliefs by accidently messing up his order, what's next? Can I sue somebody for offending my religious beliefs by intentionally saying mean things? How about I sue somebody for offending my religion by accidently stepping on my shadow, which I believe is my soul and is damaged by getting stepped on and the only way to fix the damage is a vacation to a five-star resort in Fiji?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  9. ART

    Oh please a little meat never hurt anyone, probably a little less anemic now.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • don't try those gimmicks on us. Your karma will chase yout ill death

      Really!

      Your red meat is known to cause cardiovascular diseases and cancer. You'll slow march to death eating these crap and have the audacity to ask others to try it.

      American Arrogance is always overboard!! First of all it's arrogance which shouldn't exist at all.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • ART-less

      "a little meat never hurt anyone"
      I'd like half a pound from your leg. Well done, please.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  10. Amanda

    Wow this article is incredible.. so much hypocrisy going on with this group of people supposedly God-loving? I need to cleanse my soul of sin so I am going to SUE THIS RESTAURANT? Where is the logic? Go take a bath and pray to God for forgiveness. While you're at it, you should probably add learn compassion and forgiveness to the prayer list.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Johhny B

      Right on Amanda !!!!

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

    If all they want is a flight to India, then this restaurant will get off easy. Compare that to the typical American lawsuit which consists of millions and millions in damages, a life time of paid therapy and probably other absurd things.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  12. AZ

    Pradip Kothari's comment that the diners should be ashamed for bringing a bad name not just to Hindus but to the
    Indian-American community is totally uncalled for. He doesn't even go by his Indian name anymore. He goes by Peter. He's turned American. Also, I'm sure he didn't complain when McDonald's was sued and go in McDonald's favor. Peter Kothari is a local businessman and am sure is a friend of Moghul.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  13. Fred8680

    How about if you purchased 'all natural' blueberry muffins and found that the blueberries were not real blueberries?

    July 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  14. Susan

    Sounds like some people are blowing an honest mistake way out of proportion and trying to get a free trip to India.

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

    To those who want a starter on Hinduism, I would suggest go and read "Autobiography of a Yogi" online Just google it and you will find the complete book online.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Johhny B

      Yogi Bear ? "yes sir ranger sir".....

      July 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  16. thinking ahead

    Say three Hail Shiva's and move on.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  17. DS

    Absolute right to sue. Will teach businesses to be more careful about their claims.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  18. Frogist

    I'm allergic to everything. And I cannot tell you how difficult it is to figure out what is on a menu these days. Even if the establishment says no seafood, they don't actually know what is in it. It's russian roulette everytime I go to a ja-panese restaurant with friends. Or order chinese. And I've had so many issues with Panera... I know that's not the exact drift of the article but I have to tell you, people not being upfront about what is in the food I am paying for is near the very top of my pet peeves list.

    Also I know vegetarian non-hindu people who would frankly burst a vessel if they found they accidentally ate meat. They might convert to hinduism if they found out they could sue to go to a place and cleanse themselves of the karma.

    I want to say there should be a middle of the road, less extreme way to deal with the situation than suing the restaurant for tainting their souls. But considering how much it peeves me when I get served the bad food, I am inclined to say sue away! But maybe I'm just a little too close to the issue.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Johhny B

      You have an allergy and that is much different than these clowns saying I can't eat something or God will get mad at me... Really ? How moronic does this sound ?

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

      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 10:38 am |
    • Frogist

      I understand the difference in physical harm versus questionable spiritual harm. But whatever the reason (spiritual, physical, moral, mental) you ordered the food the way you did, you deserve to get exactly what you ordered. IMO too many places take it for grantetd the lax way they handle food. And there are VERY few places that will tell you what you are eating. The standards need to be much higher.
      @Yim: How are these people imposing their religious beliefs on anyone else? They are not infringing on anyone else's religious rights by asking that when someone else screws up your meal causing mental harm, compensation needs to be meted out. The compensation might be extreme in this case, but I see no infringement on anyone else's freedom of religion.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  19. Mani (Hindu)

    Hiduism forgive if you eat meat without you knowing that you are eating meat. Therfore there is no sin to purify, but these people have to purify their sin for sueing someone who had no intension of making harm to their soul. It was a simple mistake. Do not abuse the system.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  20. Cassie

    I say give them a big ole juicy T-bone steak. They're bound to change their tune about being strict vegetarians.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • don't try those gimmicks on us. Your karma will chase yout ill death

      T-bone Steak! Really Cassie?

      Keep your arrogance to yourself. We have respect for your culture and life style. You better respect us for who we are.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:23 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.