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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. Joshua

    They should have claimed that they have to leave Earth's atmosphere and orbit 12 times in order to cleanse their souls, and get a court decision to have the restaurant give them a free ride on the next Russian space ship to the Space Station.

    Aside, Orthodox Jews who keep strictly kosher do NOT eat in restaurants unless they are certified as supervised by a Rabbi for exactly this reason – one simply cannot be assured of what you get in a restaurant. Hear Weird Al's song: "Cat in the Kettle" about how they serve cat at many Chinese restaurants.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Scott S.

      Weird Al did NOT write that "Cat's in the Kettle" song. Just because it's a parody, does not mean that Weird Al wrote it.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  2. Nirmal Jain

    Its not the question of religion. Its how you feel if you eat meet and you are vegetarian. I myself is vegetarian its not because
    I am a religious person or my religion says so, its because I feel awful if I eat meat., and if I was in this situation I will do the same thing not because I need to go to India to purify myself only because to realise them and be careful in future and they should pay some fine for this mistake I dont know how much let court decide that but its a horrible thing for a vegetarian
    and comment posted by another person that they should open the samosas before they eat to see whats inside, which majority of people dont do why should they?
    .

    July 22, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Nick

      They are vegetarians. If they take their food consumption so seriously (enough to SUE somebody), then they could open the things up and check before they eat. Just like the manager said, this is a case where people are taking advantage of the US Judicial system. Do you realize how much it would cost to send 16 people to India? That would probably cripple a small business owner.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • No GOD

      I am a Hindu ... I eat beef,pork, frog thighs, gelly fish, shark, gator tail, cow tongu,etc. I love to try new food... Wat's considered not edible in one country is a delicacy in another.. 🙂 hav fun arguing guys

      July 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Marie

      "Majority of people"do not open a samosa because they do not care if there is meat in it!! When you are so concerned about not eating certain kinds of food, you obviously triple check everything or eat at home!! This is just another ludicrous and disgusting lawsuit, paving the way for more. I feel so bad fro that poor business owner. I myself had to pay $2500 to a woman who claimed she broke a tooth eating at my restaurant. And that was the settlement, she originally wanted double...Disgusting shameless people.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Eric Lucas

      Because they (and you) need to take personal responsibility for their health/happiness/religious convictions. It is up to the restaurant to do what they can to meet the dietary needs of their patrons...but anyone who dines out shares some responsibility for what they eat. If you want zero risk of eating something that you don't like or can't have, then cook your meals yourself–i.e., eat at home. I feel awful when a restaurant gives me food poisoning (which has happened a couple times in my life), but I know it's generally an honest mistake, and I don't automatically say "sue their asses off!!!"

      July 22, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  3. Jayanthi Vittal

    Funny, the diner owner being a Hindu did not respect the religious beliefs of his Hindu customers. I guess he was mocking his Hindu customers' religious beliefs. He should have settled the case out of court long back. I wish this case gets so costly to the diner owner that teaches a good lesson to similar mockers.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • guest

      Sure he is a Hindu? Why does he call the restaurant "Mughal Express?" Anyway, that is beside the point. Hindu or non-Hindu, mistakes happen everyday and we deal with them. These people are fighting for two years – that is not the tenet of Hindu religion, where forgiveness is an important part. If those Indians eat outside of their homes at all, I can bet you that they have eaten meat in some form or the other – unknowlingly of course. They should make their own food at home, or have a vegetarian caterer prepare it for them. There are plenty such caterers in the area where they live.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Jain

    After they take a dip in the Ganges they have to be quarantined on their return to US since they would be carrying spreadable diseases.They are looking for a free trip to India and there is no rule within Hinduism that asks for a person to go to Ganges after eating meat. In fact Hinduism says you can cleanse yourself by sprinkling some water from Ganges in US and they are also sold here in US.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Mohammad

      I have completed my studies in comparitive religion, and you are right. There are many ways for a Hindu to cleanse their impurities. Also giving money to their Mandir as charity.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  5. notborncynical

    Give me a break...they didn't eat the meat intentionally so they didn't sin. I think they just want a free vacation trip home.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  6. Desi01

    The restaurant made a mistake and should be punished. How far the punishment should go is up to the courts. But as a Hindu, I would not go to Ganges to purify myself. Just forgiving yourself for eating meat is fine. Restaurants should respect vegetarians and make sure they do not serve non-veg to them. It becomes implicit legal agreement that a restaurant provides vegetarian food when a customer orders vegetarian food. If it does not do that it violates the term. You don't get a PC monitor if you order a TV.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Mohammad

      This is a silly story. It sounds like this group had a vandetta against the Mughal restaurant. I definately think that the diners should be recompensed in some way, but free trips to India? no. Perhaps the Mughal restaurant can cater after-service lunch at the Mandir that the diners go to for free, and a sincere appology to those affected. This will help them save-face, and the Hindu community will also be thankful to the diners for catering lunch.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  7. Jacob

    The cow is considered sacred in the Hindu religion—and not just the cow itself but everything that come out of it is sacred as well. Milk, urine, curds, dung and butter from cows, Hindus believe, will cleanse the body and purify the soul. Even the dust of footprints of cows has religious meaning. Hindu livestock has entered in the English language in the form of the expression of shock (“Holy cow!”) and to describe something that is preserved at great length for no rational reason (“sacred cows”).

    Hindus believe that each cow contains 330 million gods and goddesses. Krishna, the god of mercy and childhood, was a cowherd and a divine charioteer. At festivals honoring Krishna priests shape cow dung into images of the god. Shiva, the god of revenge, rode through heaven on a bull named Nandi and image of Nandi marks the entrance to Shiva temples. [Source: Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches by Marvin Harris, Vintage Books, 1974]

    India is home to more cattle than any other country. But cows are not the only things that are sacred. Monkeys are also revered and not killed because of their association with the Hindu god Hanuman. The same also true with cobras and other snakes that appear in a number of sacred contexts such as the bed that Vishnu is sleeps on before creation. Even plants, particularly lotuses, pipal and banyan trees and basil plants (associated with Vishnu), are loved and a great effort is made not to harm them in any way.

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

      It is a BS that the cow is sacred. There is no scriptures stating that. The reason they don't kill cows is because they give milk which is considered a good source of food. It is like killing a golden goose. Over the generations (millenniums) it has become a de facto religious icon.

      In fact it is permitted to eat cow meat and no sin will be committed. Know your facts before you say something.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • GvilleT

      Well they can just go to a temple or something and pray the god they ate out of them or something. No harm, no foul. None of this was intentional and no one was harmed...except that poor cow (or multiple gods as you put it).

      July 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Vivek

      Hindus worship nature and believe they should not harm any of Gods creation. Hence they see God in all living things and are compassionate to animals. Compare this to Islam – Mohamed tells them to bleed a goat to death (halal). Millions of goat are slaughtered to celebrate Id. Christainity is even more ignorant religion bcoz their bible written by some ignorant people thought the earth was the centre of the universe this until Galileo told them they were wrong and church put him in jail. Hindus knew this fact before even before Jesus was born, When Alexander invaded India he thought he reached the end of the world was surprised when the hindus told him the earth was round and not flat. Both Christianity & Islam grew bcoz of forcibile conversions by different kings. Jewish & Hinduism dont believe in convesrion as religion is a personal experience. Regarding casteism this is not a religous issue but more a human tendency to divide people, we see that in Christianity Protestant, Greek orthodox, Catholics etc . In Islam sunni, shia, ahemdiya, ismaili etc. Even if u say everybody is equal and start from scratch , Humans will soon branch out into different groups rich, poor, beliefs, politics etc. Every Human thinks what he believes in, is the best. Today Western civilisations have grown out of this religious nonsense and have become secular. Islamic countries are still behaving like the 8th century and hopefully will realise the truth there is no Allah or God. India where most Hindus live is secular but it will take time for them to completely let go of their religious beliefs. In another 25 years prosperity in India will make them realise religion is crap.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • No GOD

      I am a Hindu ... I eat beef,pork, frog thighs, gelly fish, shark, gator tail, cow tongu,etc. I love to try new food... Wat's considered not edible in one country is a delicacy in another.. hav fun arguing guys

      July 22, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • No GOD

      I am a Hindu ... I eat beef,pork, frog thighs, gelly fish, shark, gator tail, cow tongu,etc. I love to try new food... Wat's considered not edible in one country is a delicacy in another.. hav fun arguing guys..

      Jacob, did u try any of these?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • No GOD

      I am a Hindu ... I eat beef,pork, frog thighs, gelly fish, shark, gator tail, cow tongu,etc. I love to try new food... Wat's considered not edible in one country is a delicacy in another.. hav fun arguing guys

      Jacob, did u try any of these?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Packer fan

      Duni, maybe you should get your facts straight. It's written all over the great hindu scripture Mahabarata asserting that the cows are sacred. i'll give you that though, the cows are sacred because it provides milk and mainly it holds the same regards as a "mother."

      July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  8. Some Guy

    Frivolous law suit. The plantiffs should be ashamed. The plantiffs were not intentionally harmed. It was an accident.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Babydoc

      So you think an act has to be intentional before you can sue? MOST lawsuits involve accidents! You don't think that a plaintiff has to prove that the other driver intentionally rear ended them and caused physical injury do you?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  9. GvilleT

    How stupid! Just becasue a restaurant makes a mistake, doesn't mean the customer has the right to sue. So, If I get a strawberry shake instead of the chocolate one I ordered, I can sue? I hope they spend every penny they have in legal fees, then lose. That would be justice...for being stupid and/or con-artists.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  10. Dan

    Part of solving the jobs problem in the U.S. is eliminating frivalous lawsuits like this. These lawsuits drive up the costs for insurance for businesses and waste taxpayer Dollars in the courts. With a group that's willing to sue for a trip to India, they probably needed a trip to India anyway to cleanse themselves of far worse sins.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  11. Aditya Patel

    Well..i am vegetarian and to be honest with you..i had my share of eating meat accidently at taco bell, unlimited buffets or somewhere else. Truth is: when any vegetarian person eats meat or beef, he/she definately finds it out immediately as it tastes different. My question: is this 16 ppl group full of idiots or they were all eating together at once? If someone finds it out, why didn't they share it with others (if they are being worried about breaking religious laws)
    Yes..i can imagine that they are hurt, but this is not the way to get revenge. Just ask for your money back, complain, write bad review on their website and tell them to be more careful..Period...

    July 22, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Packer fan

      They are stupid... making Indians look bad... just look at the comments below. Chutiye saale...

      July 22, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  12. boomonster

    Mughal has awesome mutton and chicken samosas!!!! Yum!!!
    Vegetarianism is a disease than can only be cured by bacon.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Usaywha?

      A few BLT's in Washington would also help them decide on a budget and debt ceiling. If only someone would take them all a bacon sandwich with an extra side of bacon.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  13. Andy

    The meat samosa is lot better than the quality of the Ganges river. Once the river was very pure water but now it is highly polluted. Some Hindus do the cremation on the bank of the river and then throw the human corpse into the river. Not joking...

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

      how do they still have the corpse after it is cremated?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Vinay Pandey

      some bodies are cremated. Some are also set onto floating-pires and set fire-to. Then the burning body is sent down the ganges. There are also groups of religious cannibals who try to capture the burning bodies and eat them. This is believed to give you super-powers when you eat human flesh. Those are called the Aghori Hindus. I remember them from my childhood.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  14. Logic

    Cow is a vegetarian animal. So Beef is a vegetarian dish. Therefore, eat more Beef.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Jacob

      dude, youtube "urine drinking in india" – it's more popular than soda there. for real.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • NS

      that you confirmed from you tube?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Jacob

      you will get news clips from indian news, us news, cnn, bbc etc... even Andrew Zimmern had some when he was in India on Bizzare Foods.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Rob

      @Jacob – you have no idea what you're talking about. I've lived in india. no one drinks urine except a few crazies.. which is nothing among 1.7 billion people

      July 22, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  15. Balanceinnews

    Where is the question of religion? I don't think the judge gave this order because it hurt their religious beliefs or there is a need for purification of souls. The fact remains that the restaurant failed to do the due diligence on confirming whether samosas were vegetarian or not and mixed up the order. The judge ordered the lawsuit to go on because the restaurant failed in its duty to serve the customer. Think if someone orders a dish specifically without an ingredient because of an allergy and the restaurant mixes up the order. I am not sure what the punitive damages should be, but to say that this case is an exception in any way is misleading. I have seen worse examples of frivolous lawsuits than this.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  16. Mohammad

    I am a Muslim, and do not eat pork (also avoid non-halal (non-kosher) meat). I do however love a good veggie burrito, fish sandwich, or veggetarian nacho-platter on occasion. Sometimes, I find bacon-bits mixed into my food. What do I do? I go back to the restaurant, and have a meatless order re-made for me. I feel that Allah (God) is all merciful, and eating something by accident, is not a big deal at all. Also, I feel that it is a greater sin for me to put the small business owner (or big business owner) out of business for a mistake that one employee unintentionally made. Jesus (may peace be upon him) never consumed pork, but if someone slipped him some accidentally – I'm sure he would turn the other cheek.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Mohammad

      If Allah is the devil, then Jesus Christ (may peace be upon him) was also a devil worshipper. According to your Bible, the was crying out to Allah for hep on the cross – “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani”

      Eloi=Eloh (Elohim) Eloh=Allah.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  17. Andy

    I do agree with the peanut statement: If you order something that you are allergic to, there is a case...if they ordered something and were assured it did not have meat..they have a case..bit 8000 dollars a piece to get to India seems a bit too much. Accept the apology, get some cleansing at your local temple and do not go to that rest. again. Go to a purely vegetarian place.This isn't being anti-Hindi, it's just the rest. can argue back that someone who is that devout shouldn't be eating there to begin with...Aren't they breaking some religious law to begin with? Don't know how it works in Hinduism but someone who is strictly Kosher would never go to a non-Kosher restaurant so there wouldn't be a problem.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Balanceinnews

      But they did ask the restaurant whether they make meat samosas or not and the restaurant assured them that they don't! So the customers did the due diligence, but the restaurant did not, and mixed up the order. Your point is well taken, but this is something akin to saying that someone with a peanut allergy should only eat at home, just to be sure. Do you think that's fair? But to go for purification in Ganges is over the top. If they win the case, I would love to see them take a full body dip in Ganges and click their pictures because it is so polluted that even natives just wash their feet instead of taking a full dip. In fact the judge should order that they will have to take the full dip and make a video as a proof. I would love to see their faces while taking a complete dip in Ganges and how purified they feel.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  18. a human

    Just like how psycho Casey Anthony represents ALL Americans, these stupid morons represent all Indians, right??

    Just like how that that old crabby lady sues McDonalds for hot coffee incident of hundreds of millions of dollars represent all Americans, right!!!!

    I'm an American, and people who has nothing positive things to say about another human, MAKES ME SICK to my stomach....
    Do you not see why the people from other countries HATES us so much???

    WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR KIDS??? I'm assuming how to hate!!! I'm ashamed!!!

    I pray to God that please give us more people like MLK, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Princeses Diana back to us...

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

    Mmmmmm... Samosas... It's been too long...

    July 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  20. Nilesh

    Make sure they shower before going in Ganges..Otherwise Ganges will sue them..

    July 22, 2011 at 10:59 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.