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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. Kris

    I am a Hindu Vegetarian living in the US.. and I'll say.. this is by far the most ridiculous exploitation of the law. Sounds like these morons are desperately wanting a free trip to visit family in India.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • z

      Wait. Are you "Kris" for real?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  2. Nadir

    A equal number of people should accompany this group and kick from behind when they take a dip and hold their necks down so they do not come back here to USA or rather Edison. We need some cleaning here with Clorox. Shame on this hinduism. I know the owners very well. They should not pay a dime to them. Just send a equal number of people with them. They should request the Judge to grant them permission.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  3. humanbean

    So let me get this straight. It's not alright to eat the meat, but it's ok to eat stuff that's fried? I'm so tired of the stupidity of people and their emotional relationships with made up religions. Go take a shower!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • humanbean

      And these are the same people who drink, bathe, and defecate/urinate in a river that's supposed to be sacred and purifies them.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  4. SM

    These guys are a joke. However, for all the racists here who are posting their comments, read what the Indian rep said at the end. He blasted these folks. I felt the same way after I read the article. However, after reading a lot of disgusting racist comments here, I'll side with those guys who are suing. If all Indians are going to get painted with a broad brush by a bunch of racist fools anyway, then go ahead and sue just as the avg American does to make a quick buck by fleecing the system.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  5. sandy

    Man !!! if i was vegetarian i could have made some extra money with a lawsuit lol

    July 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  6. my6cents

    totally americanized , frivolous lawsuit , free trip to the old country

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

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  7. Richard S Kaiser

    Tobu; Wrote; “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.” on July 22, 2011 at 11:44 am

    In reference to my posting the following; “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! On July 22, 2011 at 11:38 am

    My rebuttal is; “Tobu, Muneef did Blog an Article where Cannibalism is Actually Happening within a Third World Country. China does eat “dogs and cats” Not to Mention Insects , Sea-Based Critters of varying shapes that the “Modernized Nations/Countries” Finds “Repulsive” Your stating that, “ People draw a line of what they deem fit for eating and what they think they are not comfortable with” is A desperate and illusive Declaration of False Altruism the Insinuates an Irregularity of Thought-Filled Progressiveness.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  8. angrysmell

    purify themselves...i'm guessing by taking a dip in the Ganges. that's kind of like washing your cloths in brake fluid. bs. they just want a free trip to india. it's nice when immigrants assimilate into american society so easily.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  9. deep

    TO ALL VEGETARIAN FRIENDS DO NOT TREAT RESTAURANTS LIKE MANDIR,,OR GO FOR GOVINDAS HARE KRISHNA TEMPLE RESTAURANTS

    July 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  10. guest

    I agree that "they should be ashamed for bringing a bad name not just to Hindus but to the Indian-American community." First of all, they should have known better before they went to a restaurant called "Mughal" Express. It is obvious that many of the dishes there will involve meat, and there is no guarantee that meat flavoring will not be used in vegetarian dishes. Other than that, sprinkling some holy water from the Ganges on your body purifies any such "sin" committed through no fault of their own. As suggested in the article, they could easily have purified themselves at a local temple. They are just looking for a free vacation at someone else's expense. Shameful!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  11. JST

    This is ridiculous! Our courts seem to be operated by morons these days who allow people to proceed with lawsuits that should be denied. In fact it would be best if we start charging a fine for the most ridiculous lawsuits. That might keep people at bay.
    As far as the scenario at hand goes. I think it is an honest mistake. It's also hard to believe that they finished multiple samosas without noticing before they returned the remaining ones. Since you already have temples locally, I don't see why the court would possibly award a ticket to India. Whoever approved this should be sent back to law school!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  12. Vijay

    Gosh this is making me hungry. Anyone got the recipe for samosas?

    July 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  13. Dan

    That image of a man in white outfit is from Pakistan. The MEAT SAMOSAS are a dish of/from Pakistan and people love to eat a lot of meat. So if you wana enjoy MEAT samosas Pakistan is the place.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  14. Pete

    90K? Im in the wrong business then, Is 7-11 still hiring?

    July 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  15. Human

    These guys need to be reasonable in their demand for compensation. The air they breathe has living bacteria, do they need to stop breathing!

    July 22, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  16. SAK

    This statement sounds funny....

    “Yes, the vegetarians had consumed meat and believed they were complicit in inflicting death and injury to God's creatures”

    What about plants? What happens to those who take the lives of plants? Are them not God’s creation? Infact, vegetarians take more lives then meat eaters, think about it, how lives they have to take to feed one person v/s meat eaters 😀

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

      The nervous system of the animals is much more developed than those of the plants. So, the pain experienced by animals is several times more than the plants. Hence, for vegetarians, the violence is of much less proportion and karma inflicted is much less. However, most Hindus offer the vegetarian food to God, the source of all life, before eating. That absolves the karma also. So, with vegetarian food offered to God, there is less violence and is karma-free!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  17. Anathoth

    Ahhh, another great example of our me first, sue happy, culture.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  18. Person

    It's not like the group intentionally wanted the free trip.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  19. skeptic

    This is simply a redistribution of wealth, among mostly Hindus, and their lawyers.

    If Mughal Express can't pay, there is bankruptcy protection that is available to it.

    July 22, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  20. Rob

    Well, if that's all it takes to mess up their spirituality to the extent they need to be cleansed which can only happen in India, then they are surely doing things every day that messes up their spirit. Therefore, the restaurant should only be fined a fraction of the cost of going back to India to cleanse their spirit. Money grubbing hypocrites, this group is.

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

      Agree. These folks are taking advantage of the american justice system.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
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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.