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. Topaz

    when will these stupid people realize that food is for the body and religion is for the soul??

    July 22, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Seme Other Guy

      And there is no relation between soul and the body, RIGHT!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  2. TodayMessage

    MT said

    "When in Rome , be Roman."

    So they sued and won. The owner should pay.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  3. DoubleB

    They were given something that was wrong. But they were the ones who decided to start chowing down on them before they knew what was in them. If they had taken 2 seconds and cut one open....they might have seen the beef. For a group to sue over something like this, when they have other options to clear their souls....its crazy. They want a free trip. If they do win the trip, it should be stated that they are only allowed to go to the river, take a quick dip, and back on the plane. No free vacation.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  4. Mike

    whatever it is , you dont sell what you promise, you gotto be ready for the consequences.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  5. Calvin Hobbes

    What a load of krap! This is exactly why we need to audit these "judges" who have no common sense and insist on making up laws rather than trying to decide whether a law actually has been broken. All these judges do is destroy the people's lives, businesses, and the community, not just financially but also by putting them at risk.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Azreaal

      If, as a Hindu, you must take a dip in a polluted, fetid, mudhole of a river to be cleansed, save yourself the trip. The Hudson River is closer and you could be cleansed without waiting for a court verdict.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  6. Prcycling

    This is crazy....these jokers just want money. I understand people have different religions, but this is taking advantage of the system. I bet that there is a ton of Hindus out there who are embarrassed about the actions of these few rotten apples. If you need to dip in that one specific river my suggestion is that you should stay in that spot for the remainder of you life.

    Plaintiff, Hindus eat plenty of meat....just admit you want a free trip. Hell I bet the neighborhood would make a collection and send you back one way.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  7. This is hilarious

    All the comments i read up to are funny, because i am a muslim american and its so funny seeing indian people fight to me. they just continue bickering, especially about stupid crap. give it a rest, and welcome to America. Its alright, your intention was not to eat meat. "your God will forgive you" it was not ur intention.
    Other then that, the ones that continue to argue back and forth, reading your comments, you all sound like a buncha tip top bimbos.

    AGREED? just shut up and take it. move on with your life.
    "i spilled soy sauce on my shirt, im sueing becasue i didnt ask for soy sauce" thats how stupid this sounds.

    Peace n Love

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

    I think the judgement as per Solomon would be ..
    Tthe restaurant should pay one way fare to Haridwar , India to all these diners.
    And the diners should stay in Haridwar until their next birth, when they are completely purified. .

    July 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  9. News to me

    So eating meat is a sin, but outright manipulation and theivery are o.k.? Screwed up religion. Shame on them.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Anshul

      At least better then you

      July 22, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • anon

      You're an idiot for generalizing to the whole religion. Have you not read the article?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  10. Someone

    Being vegeterian can be by Health mentality or By Religion Mentality... Its funny when we use Health metality people respect it... but when we use Religion Metality they make fun of it (How sad). ...I grew up being strict veg person. But I have no problems with people who consume meat its there way and this is my way but being vegeterian is not only religious matter its the matter of my personal thinking how to treat living creature.... Study shows that in US average person eats 22,000 Animals during full life cycle (NO KIDDING... its truth)... so they wont understand mindset of person who never ever killed a single animal for the sack of Taste..... If you have laws for Gay Rights then ....There should strict laws how Vegeterians Food should be served.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  11. Suresh Tate

    This is a frivolous case. I am a Hindu. I believe that, for a strict Hindu, just crossing the oceans to come here is a religious taboo. Gupta and Agrawal have already tainted themselves and, perhaps, even sinned by crossing the oceans to get out of India. In the strictest sense, they should be required to pay for their trip to Haridwar to re-purify themselves as Hindus. By the way, they need not be too afraid of the quality of water there. The last and only time I was there, the water looked quite clean and cool.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  12. aubrie

    What do you bet they ate the whole tray before deciding to do this..... 🙂

    July 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  13. DS

    Don't understand the hue and cry about some restuarant being sued; it happens everyday all over the country. It is about wrongful claims. And as for the amount being claimed, it is paltry (approx. $25,000). So why is it a news and why so many people are upset that the restuarant is getting sued?

    July 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  14. R

    Man, I am a Hindu and a vegetarian. once Taco bell served me beef. I ate little and it was good. But when I realize i am eating meat, I politely went to counter and asked lady that she made mistake. She got scared, offered me two taco instead. I told her to give me only one and told her to calm down. No Hindu scriptures write against meat eating. On the contrary, majority Hindus eat meat. Nothing wrong with it. These jokers want money and that is why they are suing. Learn to forgive and forget, they are better values than being vegetarian.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  15. shavi

    I can Purify their soul with a nice Bamboo Stick

    Cost= Free of Charge

    July 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  16. timothyoneten

    Why not ship a few gallons of the Ganges here?

    July 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  17. Richard S Kaiser

    I am a Humorist that fails to see the difference in things that we Omnivorously Ingest for are not All foods that we Consume Otherly Life Forms? What should it Truly matter as to what we eat or Consume or even ingest? Our Beings are Built To Consume and We Ought to give Thanks to that which we ingest for Giving up their Fleshliness! (Please pass me the Salt!)

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

      You are no humorist. Trust me on this one.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  18. Ashutosh

    Well, not as straight forward as it sounds.

    It is absolutely not acceptable mistake from restaurant. If they did mistake, they need to pay fine for that. I am not advocating paying to that group, but my take would be to charge them in terms of money or a year long social service. Not necessarily money or service for Hindu group/people. Send owner and server of the restaurant responsible for the mistake to work for physically challenged people, help troops etc.

    For group of Hindus, I would suggest, leave the matter hear. Go to near by temple and pray from the heart. Get over the thing.

    I had similar experience in Taco Bell in Libertyville, IL where I had ordered Been Barito and ended up with Beef Barito. Luckily I found it on wrapper itself but need to be practical and go on.

    July 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Hello Ashutosh,

      All People of Varied Consumabilities regarding Fleshiness Consumptions should ever be aware of those whom they do Patronize when "Going Out To Dine".

      People of Many Restaurants are not Perfect when it comes to Making and then Serving Food stuff to their Clientel. Seven Day Adventists are not unlike These Hindus in that neither have decided to ingets, consume or eat meatiness.

      Seven Day Adventists do however relish the flavors of meatiness and they do eat Soy-Based foodstuff that is lavished with meat-like Flavor. Who knows, Maybe it was a soy-based food that these Hindus are ridiculing!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  19. Indian

    Shame on these people! Exploiting their own fellow Indians. Their sins will not be cleansed even by the waters of the Ganga!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Austin

      Yes, shame on them! they should be suing us; Americans, instead!

      July 22, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Amar

      I don't see a reason to sue the restaurant. This is a crap. I am a hindu and I know that there are several restaurants in India who sell meat samosas. Nobody complains. Everyone enjoys. Nobody is forcing you to eat meat samosas.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  20. Osho

    Its funny how deep rooted hatred towards other nationals comes out!!! At least have the guts to be fair and complain about things that never happens in America. Coffee being too hot and suing the hell out of the place is okay..Falling down and walking away with millions is okay (as if while playing or walking in their house) none of those fools ever fell down in their life but Oh, as the floor of someone else's place was wet and I fell down so now i can't work, i can't move and give me millions and i will be running like a pro? I am a hindu, and yes, I find this crazy BS of going to India and cleansing yourself up and all that sheer nonsense but Its the human nature not the culture who is a culprit!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • r-hope

      Thanks Osho. Breath of Fresh air. I sometimes wonder where all haters congregate at CNN online...

      July 22, 2011 at 11:12 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.