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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. I AM HINDU VEG TOO..

    THESE BUNCH OF VEGGIE JOKERS ARE LOOKING FOR FREE TICKET TO INDIA TO VISIT THEIR PARENTS/GRAND PARENTS.... IF THESE SAME SET OF GUYS CLAIM SAME THING IN, RESTAURENT OWNER WOULD CHASE THEM WITH GOOD HARD WOOD STICK... THESE ARE JUST JOKERS ....

    RESTAURENT MADE MISTAKE .... JOKERS GO TO TEMPLE IN NJ ... THERE ARE TONS THERE ... DO NEEDED POOJA.. IT WILL BE DONE ... DON'T WASTE NJ TAX PAYERS MONEY FOR YOUR BAD MOTIVES....

    July 22, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  2. kumar

    Take a dip in my pee , its better than the dirty ganges water 🙂

    July 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  3. Eric

    Ironic that McDonalds fries contained beef. That explains where it went from the burgers.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  4. Sam

    Stop giving indians a bad name. If you are so concerned about restuarant food, eat at home or grow your own veggies. Leave the meat samosas to us non-veg indian.
    Thanks..bye...

    July 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  5. RESH

    Firstly, if you are so strict about your religion and eating veg food you should go to restuarants that only serve Strictly Veg food. There are tons of Veg restuarants in Edison...

    July 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • james

      .. and secondly? :p

      July 22, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  6. Stickler

    Paragraph 2: Should be 'spiritually' not spirituality. Thank you.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  7. Prakash

    Oh really! You guys kill animals as offerings to your gods and goddesses, isn't that a crime for you? why do you do that? Now you blame an eatery for nothing. why didn't you ask them before eating?

    July 22, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Prakash is an idiot

      Us guys do not kill animals for religious purposes. We use fruits and vegetables for our religious ceremonies. Get a clue

      July 22, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  8. GvilleT

    I hate, loathe and detest onions...can't say it enough. If these cons win this suit, I want a copy of it. Then everytime I get served a burger, burito, salad or whatever with onions in it when I specifically said "No onions", I'm going to show them this suit and tell them if they don't give me $10, I'm going to sue. If I had just $1 for everytime someone has served me onions when I asked for them to be omitted, I'd be rich.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  9. Vikas

    I have also had my share of tacobell/papajohn adding meat by "mistake" or by taking wrong order. Like me, most of us will try to talk to the cashier/server and thek keep quiet, and once or twice being yelled upon by disgruntled employees.

    It all amounts to people being insensitive to other beliefs/feelings. And I believe that's a bad thing.

    I think it's needed that some one stands up from time to time to try teach those insensitive people a lesson. I am sure these guys must have had many more such incidents before this and they must have forgiven them.

    As for the people who ridicule the ones respecting cows, plants and other animals and human being, I don't have any comments.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  10. swami

    What about all the time they order Pizza from Domino, Papa John's or Pizza Hut? They used same cutter for pizza. They are giving bad names to Hindu religion. If they are very serious about the religion then they should be eating grass and vegetables.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  11. Karen

    What about the division between church and state... The state has no right to rule on a religious matter.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Phylicia

      Amen to that! This is a complete waste of judicial resources!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Nathan

      The belief is religious, the expectation of accurate representation of the food that you are purchasing is not religious. This does not fall under any kind of separation of church and state. Also, there is no true separation of church and state. The idea itself was presented in a private letter and has never been legally established. I'm an atheist but even I understand this. Repeating terminology like separation of church and state doesn't make it exist...=)

      July 22, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Karen

      If that's the case, they cannot consider their remedy (sole cleansing) as part of the case. Funny how people want separation of church and state... until it's not considered convenient. That said, if they sue, they should ONLY consider what should be done for "anyone" in that situation. What's that: an apology, maybe a refund for the meal.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  12. waterman

    The need to go to India or millions of dollars are not necessary, but they *are* own some significant amount. If you are a non vegetarian, it may not look like it is a big deal to eat meat accidentally, but it is quite traumatic to a vegetarian. It would be on the same level as if someone who eats beef and pork regularly was fed human meat accidentally.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • cgrang

      No it would not be the same. You are straying into a different issue. To put animals on the same level with humans is folly. Everyone has the right to freedom of religion, and also freedom to discriminate, as these Hindus have chosen to do by striving to not eat animal products. But for a vegetarian to be traumatized by eating animal meat because they think it is like eating a human is for that person to be out of touch with reality.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • james

      no... it's not like eating human.. at all!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  13. Neerav

    As a Hindu, I too am vegetarian for both religious and more so, spiritual reasons. I have eaten beef accidently before, and. there are plenty of ways for which that sin can be washed away. First and foremost, ask for forgiveness by God and do some prayers or such to that effect, but don't go so crazy as to sue, and that for a pilgrimage to a sacred place to wash away the sin. A pilgrimage is one way, and religious rituals and chanting God's name equally purifies the soul from sins.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • SJ

      The River is considered holy only in the book. If you actually go there, you're bound to see a dead body floating around.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • ubervisor

      Why would anybody want to worship something that doesn't want you to eat meat.....any religion, doesn't matter what it is....makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. No grounds for lawsuit here. State stays on one side of the wall, nutso, nonsensical religion on the other.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Neerav

      SJ: The rivers are sacred, yes........actually, a good spot to bathe is not just in the Ganges, but where it meets the other rivers. That is a great location for for rituals and bathing in terms of spiritual purificatioon. I have not yet been there, but do want to see it. Thanks for pointing that out.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Neerav

      Uber: That is why we should become more spiritual and transcend the "middle man", which is organized religion. I am Hindu myself, but see all of the religions are deriving from the same spiritual truths and knowledge, and therefore want to transcend organized religion and see the unity of things to which God is the Source. Religion is the first step to God, but it is not THE step to God – only devotion to God and spirituality (and spiritual practices) can get you to God.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Nathan

      Uber, it's not your place to judge another person's belief system. The truth is that this is a simple case. The plaintiff has been wronged by being served a non vegetarian product when it was advertised as a vegetarian product. This is false advertising and I do believe that there is some compensation deserved by the plaintiffs. That being said, should they be compensated to the extent that they are asking? No. The damages sought are not commensurate with the damages. So, no trip to India but maybe a small amount of cash as punishment for the false advertising.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • ubervisor

      Well in that sense we ourselves are god because we know these universal truths, so why then would we need to be searching or trying to "get " to a god. From the life that I've lived and the things I've seen and experienced, religious and non-religious, Normative, critical thinking is the only thing that is going to bring total happiness in this world. Nathan: Notice I say all religion as a collective group here. Belief, non belief, doesn't matter. I'm not trying to detest any religion in my statements, because I don't know, you don't know, lots of people like to think they do , but they don't. So in this then, why should any kind of law governing man give any kind of leeway to religion when its just another man-made ideology that has no grounds for being proven to be true/real?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  14. John Dower

    Meat is murder and murder tastes...delicious.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • ubervisor

      I think this may be my new favorite quote hahaha.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  15. Mark

    "... there were no non-vegetarian samosas on the online menu Thursday."

    Were you folks not paying attention that day in J-school when the lesson was about double negatives?

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

      the statement makes sense... no meat on the menu thursday

      July 22, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Erin

      It's not a double negative. No non-vegetarian does not equal meat, it equals only vegetarian.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Globalki

    Whenever a person with eithe a religious or allergic reason for not consuming food, a person with even a little bit of common sense would check and double check. Frankly, when you eat out, you should already assume that there is a great propensity to make a mistake or have some contamination unless you go to a restaurant that is allergen-free or completely vegetarian, kosher, etc. I agree with the comments on the legal system here allowing ridiculous suits to drive up the costs for everyone. I feel bad for the restaurant–a small business that now has to pay for a group of idiots to get a free trip to India.

    Bottom line–if you have a food problem, assume that there may be a degree of contamination and check, double check or triple check. It's called common sense, and the legal system could use a little bit of it (along with these people who visited the restaurant).

    July 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  17. Katie

    Please... Meat will not hurt you. God will understand that you didn't mean to eat it. After all, is 'he' not all knowing??? Religious fanatics, get a life.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  18. bob

    Where can i get some meat samosas? they look delicious.

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

      They look like tostino pizza rolls LOL 🙂

      July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  19. KBG

    I am a Hindu and I think this lawsuit is stupid. Those diners need to get their heads straight. They ate it without knowledge and it doesnt hurt their karmic life. Spare the eatery and let it go.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • AL

      Go check the Vedic Scriptures before you make a comment about karmic reactions. You think you can you tell a cop you did not know the law when you broke it and he will let you go?

      July 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  20. harry

    It is sad that a bunch of fanatics can make such noise. An apology should more than suffice. The only cleaning that they need to do is to flush their doings the next morning, and all is well. But this country is just as guilty of allowing such liberty to sue over everything. And if the court grants them their wish, then the next time i see vegetables in my non-veg samosas, I am going to seek damages !! ; )

    July 22, 2011 at 11:17 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.