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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. Patel

    Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society in Edison is an idiot. He has bias opinion on this issue due to the fact he has friendship with Mougal Express owner. The reporter is also an idiot for interviewing Mr. Kothari and not the actual Indian community who do not have relationship with Mougal Express or the owner. I personally think Mougal is liable for the travel and expense for the 16 diners who at the meat samosas.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • f

      Breush your teeth and gargle if it was that bad. Go to church and say a prayer if it was that bad. If you go India, YOU STAY there !!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Missing the Sarcasm

      Seriously? You really are serious? Or am i missing the sarcasm here?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Edwin

      f: your comment here and elsewhere on this blog demonstrate that you are simply intolerant of other religions. Therefore, your opinion on whether the suit is valid is completely irrelevant. You are no better than a troll.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Eloise Has Large Corns

      I think you're an idiot. You have offended me, and should be liable for the emotional damage. I demand a unicorn, since only unicorns are capable of restoring my spiritual purity.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Missing the Sarcasm

      Religion has nothing to do with this argument. These guys want a free all inclusive trip to India.... and they chose this poor guys restaurant as a target.

      If they are so hell bent on not eating meat, they should have cut each samosa with a fork and knife... and checked it out for themselves.

      I love the quote: "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."

      What? The community pool not good enough?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Lavanty

      I agree. If christians had a rule that they HAD to visit Rome to keep their soul they'd understand.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Raj

    these guys are asking for a free trip to india and first class seat on plane , what nonse is this, ganges river contaminated. If they want to wash their sins way all they have to do is pray while take a shower, go on a fast for week and visit a temple. bloody devils

    July 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • guest

      Also, they should cook their own food. Or perhaps have Hindu vegetarian caterers prepare the food for them . There are many such caterers in the area where they live

      July 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  3. fox

    Please give me a break!!!!! Restaurants always make mistakes... Fly them all the way to nasty India for a cleansing? give me a break! the river is probably so dirty that how can that be a purification. B/S

    July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  4. pat

    I am proud of someone taking action and doing something about it. Just like a christian american will sue mcdonald for getting burned in the lap for a coffee and get paid millions, this incident goes far beyond that.
    Hindus are most tolerant people in the world. This incident is about principle and if anyone has problem with it..it is because you have prejudice and jealousy against hindus. This case will make restaurant not misrepresent products and safeguard the values of the people. This american is not ignorant..at all. and probably is well educated then anyone in this thread.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Niles

      Finally an intelligent comment! We need more Pats.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Jose

    This is a matter of religious sensitibilities. The courts have no jurisdicition over this. Weather or not their souls were defiled can not and should not be a legal issue'

    July 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Mercury32

    Sorry, I've got to disagree with a lot of the comments here. While I think the nature of the comments here. What if the resto served horse or dog?

    Vegetarians don't eat meat and to them it is a lot like getting feces in your food. I think if we just take the vegetarian part out and look at this as a resto serving something that isn't food in the eyes of the buyer you might all look at this differently. What if they served dog meat (most American's don't eat dog) or what if you found out the resto you've eaten at actually does serve cat? Most of you would think the money for an airline ticket was a pretty low offer.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Pete

    Phill,

    really? What;s your real name? You probably can't drive either!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Phill

      My real name is Phillip, American and white, I live in the Washington DC area, only difference between you and me is you are ignorant of other people's culture. Get some culture and stop shaming the rest of us Americans!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  8. Dusty

    Cleanse in the Ganges? Is that even possible? Dead meat is cleaner than that river.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Brian

      lol. Wrong ,but excellent point!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  9. Thenextstep

    Yeah, McDonalds served me SCREAMING hot coffee. I think I need to go to Hawaii and cool my tongue down........

    July 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  10. carol

    They paid for and didn't get a food that met their religious beliefs. The restaurant wasn't disclosing and that is wrong. Race has nothing to do with it. McDonalds is a prime example, reassuring a family their fries were gluten free, causing the death of a 5 year old girl. These people should sue and the restaurant should be happy all they want for compensation is a trip to India. It is about accountability, false advertising. I am shocked at the racist replies here.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Vortex

      an age old saying: LET THE BUYER BEWARE. do you know that hotdogs can containe up to 2% rat poop and still be served to the public?? who care?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  11. Pete

    Symera writes –

    Another example of the nation of whiners that America has become.

    Ok Symera, since you started your stupid sarcastic remarks, why are you here? Who are the whiners here? The Hindus are, as always, looking for something free like a free plane ticket.

    I say reward them with a ONE WAY TICKET!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  12. Indian

    Do you guys think plan have no life ? Cows blood is converted into milk and Sugar needs bones to make it white ......you don't eat or drink them ? stupid guys with stupid laws...........

    July 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  13. Kannan

    The whole point of being vegetarian is to treat animals with love. If you have slipped a meat not knowing it is meat it is alright. God won't bother. Some resturents are rude and dont care about what they serve to customers. The anger is vented through Law suites though the real reason is not eating meat by mistake. I think a simple humble apology would have resolved this issue atleast it would work with me. I am a Hindu

    July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  14. go to Veg only restaurant

    If I am a strict vegetarian, I would go to veg ONLY restaurant. There are bunch of them in Edison. There you get only vegetarian stuff, cooked in vegetarian oil.

    If I order veg samosas from a non-veg restaurant, though I get veg samosas, but deep fried in a deep fryer that being used to fry meat samosas or other meat stuff.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  15. Nonimus

    I think the judge might have said something like, "The owner will reimburse your travel expenses once you provide evidence that your soul has been cleansed."

    July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • langdu1

      this is the best one so far

      July 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Sassafrass

      HAHA! LOVE IT!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  16. Joy

    Give me a break!! Everyone in this country is sue crazy!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  17. z

    So I am not supposed to eat PORK. But one time I had bacon, accidently, and I loved it. Ever since then I m a bacon eater. Can I sue that place ?

    July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Normon

      Why not sue your church/temple/whatever for denying you the pleasure of bacon for all those years?

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

    Eating meat is not forbidden in Hinduism. I don't know where these morons get their ideas from.
    A little research into the lives of these guys will probably show they've visited strip clubs, consumed alcohol etc.. things that are much bigger sins in the faith.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • RaMo

      Interesting! So, these hindus are going to take a dip in Ganges, one of the most polluted rivers in the world, to cleanse their souls. They should be quarantined for some period of time (perhaps many months) before allowed back to ensure they would not spread the diseases they would have picked up in the process.

      By the way, I am a hindu.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      I love strip clubs.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  19. AthCliath

    Suggesting new word for Oxford / Webster dictionary – hindustupidity........its how you say it !

    July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  20. Symera

    Another example of the nation of whiners that America has become –

    July 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
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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.