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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. Pete

    As usual, they are looking for something free. Give them a one way ticket and make our streets safer.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Vivek

      Problem is the average Hindu in US earns $90K(thats just the average, the Hindu vegeterians ones are their elite so they probably earn $150K) . They will take the one way ticket and return first class. Just google average salary by religion.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • ADEL

      And Once again you are the fine representation of an American Ignorant!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Varun

      For Pete's sake, who will take care of all the IT systems for corporations, 7-11's, dunkin donuts, subways? Ain't leaving till we suck the country dry.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Phill

      Wow! I'm always amazed how people like you can be so ignorant and yet work a computer.. "streets safer"??? Since you are able to work a keyboard get some education about difference amongst people and cultures on google. you'll be surprised how much you'll learn!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  2. poiuytre

    Umm their bigger worry should be taking a dip in the putrid waters of the Ganges that is swimming in bacteria and fecal matter.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  3. AP

    Whats wrong with meat samosas? I am a hindu. I know several restaurants in India who sell meat Samosas for many decades. No one complains there. If you don't want to eat it then don't eat it. Let others enjoy.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • conditioner

      I don't think you read the article properly. Read again.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Steve

      LOL...did you even read the article?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  4. Fuyuko

    While I'm sorry they accidentally were served meat, it is not like they are allergic and would die from it. There are risks to eating out, and sometimes you just get the wrong thing. That's life. Don't like it cook your own!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Steve

      Yet another individual (not surprising in Uhmerka) who completely missed the whole point of the entire article.

      Fuyuko participates in class but does not pay attention.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  5. mukesh

    Me – I don't think they went far enough. That restaurant should be slapped down just to punish them for utter carelessness. They claimed they don't sell meat samosas and yet it's there? Gut them.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • poiuytre

      Wow gutting a restaurant and destroying the livelihoods of the owners and all the workers there just because they made a mistake which didn't really harm anyone. You're one hell of a compassionate person.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  6. CheeZ-US H Christ

    WHY did I invent dot-heads.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • poiuytre

      just so India can have a state smell

      July 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • conditioner

      So we can take your jobs and make you live in trailer parks.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  7. bobo

    since the damages are claimed to affect them in the after life, they should get a free ticket there

    July 22, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  8. Dumb guy

    This country is a great country and you should be proud to be here in the first place. Dont make such nonsenses that insults the indian community.

    If you are a vegetarian, sit in the home and cook for your self. Cooks in the restaurent cook both vegetarian and non-vegetarin foods. Dont expect to be purely "karmic" food in a restaurent. The god's created nature is designed such that all the species are balanced the right way. Who said plants aren't living things ? You drink milk, is it vegetarian ? No, it is not, it has live organism in it. You eat yogurt, is it vegetarian. No, it has good live bacteria. Who said eating non-vegetarian is bad. Dont be a stupid and expect pure karmic vegetarian in a restaurent. I think those idiots suiing small businesses are some dumb idiots and they should be ported back and let them stay there and clean their dirts.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • chicken

      You are damn right. Only in america you could do this i.e. suing for the karmic stuff. BTW half of them might just wanted a paid trip to India who knows...in fact the ganges is polluted so good luck weirdos.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • American Made

      This is really ludacris! Why are they not in a Vegan Eatery if they are so scared to taint there soul?!? So you are telling me that if I order a dish and I am brought the wrong thing I can sue for emotional distress because my heart and soul was set on getting this particular dish? You mean the vegans could not taste the difference? Seriously? Gessh!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Sun

      I think your comments suits your login ID. Being ignorant of religious beliefs doesn't make you smart.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  9. jimmymax

    For what it's worth, there is nothing in the Hindu religion saying anyone has to be vegetarian. It's all a matter of choice just like it is for any other vegetarian.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Steve

      Exactly, kinda like whether a christian actually follows the word of christ or just panders to the church. Most thiongs in life are just that, a matter of choice. It is only the intelligence and wisdom with which you make those choices that matter.

      Although from what I have seen of people lately, they seem to have a strong belief their actions have no consequences.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  10. CdnJim

    If they had medical complications the suit would have validity. There is no validity in lawsuits regarding superstisions of any stripe, Christian, Muslim, HIndu, Atheism, etc.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  11. james

    Buy them a one-way ticket!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • NJ Resident

      YES ,COURT SHOULD TELL THEM, ONE WAY TICKET TO INDIA AND VISAS ARE CANCELED,THEN THEY WILL KEEP QUITE..

      July 22, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  12. Hypatia

    This doesn't sound like outraged spirituality to me. It sounds like unmitigated greed in any religion.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  13. Disclaimer

    "Caution-You are about to eat food that is not 100% vegetarian, you will be consuming this food at your own risk of displeasing Gods"

    Lawsuits galore...looks like this is a great profession to make money these days....

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

      "This food may hurt your beliefs, please consult your Gods before you partake of this meal"

      July 22, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  14. KosherCow

    if they want to take a dip in a river thats had bodies float down it, why not just go for a swim in the Hudson?

    no need to travel to India

    July 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  15. delbre

    As long as your mind is full of filth, washing yourself in a million ganges millions of times will not cleanse your soul.

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

      100% Correct

      July 22, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  16. sp2011

    So now this article focuses on Hindus. More fodder by CNN ( sensationalist and tabloid articles) to feed the hordes of closet racists to come out and bash them.

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

      Sorry to burst your self-righteous PC bubble, but Hindus aren't a race.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  17. Kevin

    It's idiots like this (the sueing vegetarians) that make me want to renounce being Hindu and (even remotely religious) altogether. First, they have temples in Edison, and if they believe they're accomplishing anything by going there in the first place, they can cleanse themselves there and not in India.

    Second, do they have any sense of reality? The meat won't kill them, they've probably accidently eaten meat before, and they should open their minds to the world around them. The US is a meat-eating country. If their karma is so important, they should go back to India (where, coincidently, people also eat meat) or some other strictly vegetarian society where they won't have to do business with any meat-eaters. Then they'll be truly non-complicit of "murder."

    In other words, they should get a life and wash down their vegetarian samosas with a nice can of shut up juice...

    July 22, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  18. Richard S Kaiser

    Hello Neerav,

    You wrote, "As a Hindu, I too am vegetarian for both religious and more so, spiritual reasons."

    Could you Neerav axplain to me the differences between eating/consumptions of "vegetables" and that of meat?

    I see no difference for they are both of Life and we should ALL pay retributions to that which we consume!

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

      Rich,
      With this logic, what's the problem with eating humans? Or pet dogs and cats? People draw a line of what they deem fit for eating and what they think they are not comfortable with. Each of those lines is as arbitrary.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • KosherCow

      I'd try people, but only if theyre grass fed and kept in cages like veal.

      mmmm tortured baby cow

      July 22, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  19. Frogist

    If anyone wants to learn about how ugly and racist our world can be... they just need read some of these comments. Sickening.

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

      completely agree. these boards are cruel and should really be taken down. a lot of hatred towards groups of people that they don't even know. a lot of judgments. it's very sad.

      and while i would never sue anybody, i'm a vegan and would be horrified if i was served meat. so i can understand where they are coming from....especially if it's your philosophy (like myself), religion, ideology, etc.

      (and if anyone wants to comment about skinning a zucchini or me being a hippie...just spare yourself...i've heard those trite, uneducated comments for twenty years.)

      July 22, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • John

      No kidding. Being a kid of the 60's, I had some sort of silly notion that by now mankind would have grown up enough to be above such behavior. Instead, what I see is polarization – millions of people supporting an unprecedented number of groups (thousands) who are trying to make the world a better place, and millions of people who are into bigotry and brutality (I can't believe that things like the WWE exist). It is becoming hard to tell the difference between the latter group in America and the equally vile fanatics who they oppose.

      I still believe however that most people are basically good. The problem is that the bigots are so loud in their exclamations, it downs out everyone else.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mark

      John...

      "I still believe however that most people are basically good."

      Your sir, are insanely naive.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  20. scopedope

    Another frivolous lawsuit!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:37 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.