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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. Lycidas

    What's odd is that it seems most of the jerks on here doesn't even get the basics of this. It's not like the ppl went to a local burger king or such. They went to an Indian restaurant. These ppl should know to be careful for certain sects of Hindu ppl.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • KosherHindu

      Well, said

      July 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Cassie

      It was a mistake. The restaurant didn't do it intentionally.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • moronism

      this is why religion is stupid... i wonder how unsanitary the Ganges is too?

      also, arent plants one of god's creatures? just because they dont yelp doesnt mean they dont feel pain when plucked, picked and pulled... hypocrisy in its finest

      July 22, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Sane Indian against Indian Hypocrisy

      I agree with Moronism .... I am an Indian living in US .. and a Hindu ....I consider myself a Hindu follower not the religious gorism of it .. but the intellectual teachings ... and I think these stupid people who are suing the restaurant should be smacked hard ... I mean .. go to Ganges to cleansen your Soul ... ??? R you freakinn kidding me ??? .... these are the people who does not and Never will understand the True Teaching of Hinduism .... these are the kinds of Indians who have ruined Indian's reputation all over the world ... Yes I agree with my White american friends .. stop going to restaurants ot feed on a freakin grass outside or go back if u can't tolerate the US style .....Should've come here in the first place !!!

      July 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Niles

      Cassie – If a doctor leaves a scalpel inside you by mistake, will you nor sue him?

      July 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  2. javaid

    I am non vegetarian , i went to Indian restaurant and they serve me Vegetables I have to sue the restaurant and get a free trip for Haj. Mogul restaurant I will eat your beef samosas all the time

    July 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Rob

      Uncalled for! Your name says you might be a muslim.. tell me .. Other than meat, do you also have to prepare vegetables a special 'Halal' way as per Quran? Your comment was just stupid.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • forum

      how about eat holy pig evrydamn day??

      July 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • KosherHindu

      If they serve pig, I bet you'll burn down the restaurant

      July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • mitul

      How about halal pig everyday?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • HEART

      Rob I dont think JAVAID is a muslim just because his code name sounds MUSLIM. My birth name is American but I am not American. 🙂

      July 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  3. AMANPREET KANG

    Well, I 'm suing CNN for wasting my time 🙂

    July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  4. Case

    Aside from the religious aspect, consider that the restaurant is serving mislabeled food. In cases of severe food allergies, that could have resulted in great harm or death. My family has members with severe dairy and peanut allergies, and they rely on proper labeling and proper food service in restaurants. Any mistake like this by a restaurant should not be acceptable, either from a religious or a health point of view.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • really?

      It wasn't "false labeling" it was just serving the wrong dish. I know a family that has a daughter with severe allergy to pistachios and cashews. They don't go out to eat a lot, but when they do they usually bring her food they have made. They do it because they are smart enough to not trust a stranger with their daughter's life. Even if the cook tries their best there is always the possibility of cross contamination so they don't simply take some stranger's word that any of the food is "safe". Food is a necessity, but restaurants are a luxury.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • SAWolf

      So you can sue on what COULD HAVE happened? Your statement could have offended someone so much so that they have a stroke, should you be sued?

      July 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Lavanty

      @Really? The article clearly states the tray was labelled 'veg'.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • HEART

      Then dont eat outside. Why expose yourself to all these risks?

      July 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • HEART

      @Lavanty

      What if some crazy idiot placed that label to sabotage the owners as he got another job at another Delhi restaurant? Would it still be fair for the owners?

      July 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  5. Aishwarya Rai

    Shame on them. They are taking advantage of freedom of religion to get a free trip to India. Yes it was a terrible mistake but give me a break!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • forum

      hey aish..looks like the baby is eating ur brains..time to marry that tree again..

      July 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  6. Jay

    Eating mean or not is all in a person mind. If you eat vegie and think that is meat, you already commit sin. If you eat meat and believe/think that is vegie, you are innocent.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Raj

      Throw away your medication and eat M&M thinking that it is your medication.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  7. Jon

    I'm suing EVERYBODY for,,,, wait, I'll think of something. Then I'm suin' "ya!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  8. Mike Sterling

    Maybe this will help some of you understand this case. You are allergic to something (ie. nuts) and you specifically ask them if nuts are involved in the food you will be served. The waitress says "no" and then you are served something that actually has nuts and then die as a result. Do you (or your survivors) have a case? Yep. While the spirtual harm might be a little different from death, it does give you a little perspective.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Arijit

      These guys are gaming the system. (a) Really Orthodox Hindu's don't eat out- Hindu vegetarianism is like keeping kosher. Vegetarian food has to be cooked and eaten with separate utensils. (b). It's not written in Hindu scriptures, and it's not common custom, to return to India to purify yourself in the Ganges. I can't think of any situation this has ever come up as a solution, where there wasn't a lawsuit involved.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • really?

      But the better question is why put your life in the hands of a stranger for something that is just a luxury. Plus there is always the chance of accidental cross-contamination no matter how much the cook may try to keep meat/nuts/whatever out of a dish. Again, if we're talking about risking a life (or as these people think, risking their souls) why would you just take some stranger's word for it?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • KB@Really?

      Personally, I take offense to the cook putting his nuts in any of my dishes...

      July 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  9. Shawn

    Seriously? Before the restaurant has to pay to "purify their souls", the plaintiffs need to prove in court that 1) God exists, 2) God needs to be put on stand to make clear that eating meat did indeed harm them spiritually.

    I should make a religion, whereas every time I see fat people, I can sue for a trip to Hawaii to "purify my soul".

    July 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Fred

      Anything other than posting on the internet would be time well-spent for you.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Lycidas

      No Shawn, they do not have to prove their faith is true to get their food the way they want it. What a pompous jack-as.s kind of co.mment, ttypical of a closed minded westerner.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Maens

      I so agree with you. I am Hindu and you cook it I will eat it is my policy. This is them wanting a free trip. All they have to do is fast for 3 days and go to the Temple.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • lili

      Actually, I agree with Shawn. They have to prove harm was done. You can't just say you have damage for which you want compensation based on your own personal mythology, because anybody could take that and run with it. Like the guy from the pizza place forgets my sausage topping and I try to say that now I did not fulfill my religious obligation to eat one sausage pizza per day and that now need a trip to outer space to confess my sin to the flying spaghetti monster and be purified.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Raj

      "In God We Trust", do these words ring a bell to you ?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • SAWolf

      Excellent point

      July 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • KosherHindu

      @Raj
      Well said. Nothing more to add.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • shankar

      God died when George Burns died..

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

      umm there are fat people in Hawaii.........so that wont work.

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

      @lili- When you are up there, just remember to remove your helmet. No doubt you will feel the power of it's noodley appendage touching you. The feeling might seem like air deprivation but just ignore that.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  10. AMANPREET KANG

    Sum up it in one line "Middle finger up for the diners"

    July 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Raju

      This shows how arrogant you are and how you do not treat other people with respect. All in all, I think you have forgotten all the values that humanity stands for and just living for your selfish needs. All the best. May god bless you.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  11. Hayley

    This is just what happens when you eat out. Mistakes are made, it is inevitable and if you have dietary restrictions so strict that you cannot take this gamble, then don't take the gamble! Eat at home where you are responsible for everything and nothing is left to chance.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Now I can't say for certain what had happened here but when I was in High School I worked at a restaurant that served Hindus. They made their dietary rules very very clear to us, in a polite manner, and asked that our kitchen staff would be extra careful. We never had any problems. Why? Because they asked and was very clear. Now if these ppl in question just ordered without being abundantly clear to their server...then they shouldn't get too upset.
      But..if they told their server and made it very clear...it is the restaurant's fault then.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Rob

      @ lyci..

      You think they went in and asked to eb served Beef samosas? i think not.. these things are not packaged products, but freshly made and put on trays, the employee/owner might have just confused which one was which.. or thought they asked for somethign else as a result of lapse in attention.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Raj

      Mistakes, especially in Food preparation is wholly unacceptable. Using your logic all the Salmonella cases are okay – a mistake after all.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • KosherHindu

      @Raj
      Your logic impeccable. Go for it.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  12. Melissa

    They chose to eat there. If accidentally eating meat is that big of a deal, they shouldn't risk eating at restaurants. (And I'm a vegetarian.)

    July 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Hindu

      you are a vegetarian by choice but not by belief...there is a difference!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • really?

      @ hindu – lol, even those who are vegetarians for religious reasons are doing it by "choice", try harder next time please

      July 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Raj

      Right. As per you & several others, vegetarians should stay at home, not venture out, or not eat at restaurants. So long trips means stay hungry.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • forum

      @really..

      religion is congenital to many.not a choice..

      ..anything else?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Raju

      Melissa, there are different people around us who violate our rights/feelings on a daily basis in different ways. Shall we call all of them fair and if someone does not want their rights/feelings violated, have them stay at home?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Melissa

      @Hindu - You don't know that.

      And Raj, I also have severe food allergies, which means I do stay at home instead of eating out a lot of the time. I take responsibility for my own diet. It's not a right to eat at restaurants.

      Yeah, the restaurant screwed up - big time. But no one forced these diners to eat there. Demanding a business pay for 16 people to fly to India is asinine.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Lycidas

    Wow..their are a lot of jerks on here tonight. I doubt many of you would be so rude if it was a Jew, Catholic or vegan that was given the wrong food.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • SS

      Absolutely spot on.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • carebear

      Incorrect assumption. This isn't about religion ... this is about 2 diners filing a bogus lawsuit. End of story.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Joe

      I guarantee I would not care if it were a jew, catholic, scientologist or satanist. Religion is stupid.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  14. Carson

    The restaurant should: (1) apologize followed by (2) free meal for the entire party at THEIR restaurant followed by (3) suggestions for places that are PURELY vegetarian followed by (4) a good laugh because those Hindu dum-dums aren't going to win a darn thing. The Hindus should simply take a flying leap.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      I couldn't agree more.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • SS

      And clearly you believe that either 1) that a condemned criminal was the "son of god" or 2) that god revealed his divine plan to an illiterate murdering bedouin during the Dark ages. Either way, you're wrong–there is no god, just tool bags with wacko beliefs such as yourself.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @S S- then plz prove to us that there is no God. And no, I don't mean to prove a negative...you can't od that.
      But you must believe that God was a creation of man. So plz tell us:
      Who created the concept.
      Where it was created.
      Why was it created.
      How was it created.

      And plz cite your evidence, after all...you can't use faith to prove what you believe. You would be a hypocrite then.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Raj

      Same kind of Hindu "dum dums" won millions of dollars against McD. Try winning a dollar from that food giant.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  15. Shawn

    Beef filing in fries?????? Geesh McDonalds. .

    July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Deejay

      Not beef filling – beef flavoring – like season salt.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  16. Arundati Rao

    There is no doubt that the restaurant should have been more careful in what they dished out. They should have made sure that the samosas were vegetarian. But having said that, we all make mistakes. If you are a staunch vegetarian and think that you will sully your soul by eating any kind of non-vegetarian fare, what on earth are you doing eating / ordering take-out from a restaurant that also serves poultry, fish or meat? Shame on the diners for their frivolous lawsuit!

    July 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Raj

      And how many 'Pure' vegetarian restaurants are in the US ? And if meat is okay for all veg dishes, why should restaurants and food chains advertise veggie patties and veggie anything ? Simply put menus without ingredients.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  17. Ridiculous

    Wow, how utterly ridiculous. This is obviously a reason to go see the family back home. God does not care what you eat for dinner.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Rob

      Im not a down right believer in god .. but if there was one .. do you think,if he wanted you to eat animals, he would make them feel pain and moan/cry when their throats are being slit??

      I realize some religions justify this by saying "God only gave Humans a Soul and not animals. they cant feel anything". I could never understand that.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  18. k

    Well it seems like it was a mistake and that's a consequence of eating out.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  19. Morgana

    it doesn't really mattar what anyone but the diners in question believe. Its a naan-issue. Aloo of us should hope they get their consciences cleared. They should already grab a pakora suitcase and curry off to the Ganges for redemption, time is a tikka-n' away! 🙂

    July 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Morgana... Giving them back their money is good enough. No need to sue. This world is nothing but a bunch of sue happy individuals.

      July 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • kishore

      that's funny as hell!

      July 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Morgana

      Oh, Ridiculous, don't be ridiculous. i was just being ridiculous 🙂

      July 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • AMANPREET KANG

      Hahaha

      July 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • vg

      And, Morgana, u shud put ur brain in to learning math or getting rid of 100's of pounds of fat off of ur body! hehe

      July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Awesome

      July 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Morgana

      vd, there's a joke in there, I promise. I DO have spell check, ya'know! There is currently a red line under "ya'know" and I'm leaving it because I do not care.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Maens

      LOL. you are so right.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  20. Chander

    Sure, the people suing the restaurants are either greedy or hypoocrites. But the restaurant must be made accountable for their misdeeds and unprofessional conduct, which all these 'desi' business people always indulge in.

    July 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • indus

      well said.. one sensible comment out of 1000.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Thomas McVeigh

      How about mine: They won't eat meat, but stink of body odor and won't wash before diving into public swim pools. "Purify" HAH! And the ganges river stinks to high heaven anyways...dead bodies and the feces of a billion unwashed Hindi...bleach!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:05 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.