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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. Oryx

    I am a vegetarian and I support what these guys are doing. I am not religious though and I don't care about cleansing the soul. But I respect people who believe in that. More than the belief, it the matter of principle. People should not disregard others beliefs and principles. Many times, I have found meat pieces in my vegetarian dishes. It is very irritating and sometimes have trigger stomach upsets etc. for me. I agree this may purely psychological, but I did suffer sue to someone's negligence. So its time someone showed these guys to be respectful of others preferences.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • NJ Resident

      THEN GO BACK TO YOUR CONTRY .... DON'T WASTE TAX PAYERS MONEY

      July 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • The Hat of the Three-Toed Man-Baby

      I am offended by your vegetarianism, and demand you compensate me for it. I like ponies.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Jlmyers72

      So, If I eat strickly an all meat diet.and when I order my steak medium rare and a mushroom and /or onion ends up on my steak, do I get to sue? Seriously, Mistakes happen and we as a society need to stop blaming others and take some responsibility and LOOK before we shart shoveling into our mouths. No wonder our country is in the mess it is in. We'd rather point the finger and blame rather than look in a mirror. If you have a diet that is beyond what is considered normal, you need to look at your food before you eat it

      July 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  2. zoundsman

    Everyone has a beef, one way or another.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Pete

      LOL!!!! Now that was funny!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  3. MikeMazzla

    Religious people are funny

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

      I agree with you. Bit its the diversity of humans that makes planet beautiful. No one see it in this prospective that's sad part!!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  4. ahmed

    Stupid people. Look at youtube (you kick my dog). This give you better idea.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  5. fox

    We have became the land of tolerance to all people's sort of madness and extreme demands, at the same time that less and less true American values are respected. Restaurants make mistakes, just like when you order salad with thousand islands dressind and it comes with blue cheese. And now simple mistakes like this have to become a whole religious fight? If you don't like our system go back to India!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  6. Kumkum

    I'm a Hindu, born and raised in a Hindu family, and even I think that these vegetarians are ridiculous! I couldn't even continue reading the rest of the article after I read the part about the state appellate court ruling that the vegetarians could sue for the cost of travel to India to purify their souls. I understand and respect their beliefs about not eating meat, but quite honestly, suing for the cost of travel to India? In my opinion, that is beyond ridiculous!!!! I was born and raised and to this day live in America, and this saddens and scares me to see what the judical system of this country wastes it time on, and deems to be worthy of rewarding people for.

    I want to ask the vegetarian people...How will your soul be purified by bathing in the Ganges if you consumed meat and it traveled through your gastrointestinal system and more than likely exited from your body in the form of feces? I don't see why our tax money or any sort of reward should be given to these people for this madness!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Edwin

      How is our tax money involved? The RESTAURANT is being sued, not the United States.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Lavanty

      um, for mental agony? how they soothe the agony is their call.

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

      Agreed!! Perhaps they would be better purified if they just took some Ducolax and washed it down with some filtered water.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • eastwest

      I am Hindu I don't believe in stuff they do as well. In every religion people do stuff one or other way. They have freedom to do follow what they believe. If you don't believe you are free not to follow.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • florencia

      i agree with you! but i get the feeling ur not idian.
      im not one myself. and i disagree with their religion entirely.

      Is true, is very stupid to want to sue the stablishment for such a thing, when i BELIEVE you can just go to "temple" ? ( is that correct?) and "cleanse your soul" for eating meat (injurying God creatures).
      well, why dont you just say "HEY I WANT A FREE TRIP TO INDIA, i f-ing miss my land"
      done....

      i like this ""If you are a true religious person, God teaches you to forgive."
      exactly!!!
      GREEDY FOR REAL

      July 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  7. raj

    why would Hindus go to 'Mughal' Express. No 'Hindu' express around?
    Vegetarians eat vegetables, God's creation. Plants and vegetables have lives. Which is why they grow!
    Grow up hindus (I mean veggie hindus, the other version, please ignore this)!. Otherwise, make sure next time when you eat vegetables, the fertilizers used to grow them did not contain any God's creation either.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Lavanty

      Gods creations living in the fertilizer did not have their necks wrung to feed me.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • eastwest

      I am non veg hindu too. You are wrong in your prospective. If you cut a plant it grows if you cut a cow will it? lol. Ok how about this cut a cow in your home drink blood and eat it live will you??? if you can't they can't even eat what they belive. Whatever might be the reason they are grown enough to take such decisions. You are little grown to understand them?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  8. I = rubber, U = glue

    Arguing that "What if it were something they were allergic too," does not apply to this case. In my opinion, one must prove negative results of the action to have a reasonable lawsuit, it is not about "What if's".

    It's easy to say "Here are my medical bills for making me eat something I'm allergic too, please pay for this." It is a little tougher to say "You made me eat broccolli, and i hate broccoli, now pay for my vacation."

    The way i see it, there was no physical harm done to these diners. That makes the case into "You have offended my beliefs." which is a much tougher case to win than "You put me in the hospital."

    July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • florencia

      i heart you....
      *THUMPS UP*

      July 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  9. Seriously???

    I am a Hindu, and if I accidentally ate meat, I would not SUE over it. That is just absolutely ridiculous. The most the owners should be responsible for is refunding them for the meal. These jerks do not need a free trip to India.
    And Nadir, to suggest drowning someone for something so petty would be even more ignorant than the morons who are suing.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  10. Lavanty

    Meat in food for a Hindu/staunch vegetarian is like poop in food for a non-vegetarian. Ha! Bet you'd sue then!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • f

      Cook your own damn dinner you lazy slob.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • SavoryBrown

      So you willingly go out to restaurants and witness the patrons eating feces and the smell of hot cooked feces wafting about the place? Maybe you should stay in. Somehow I don't think the two equate.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Bob Havecker

    Buy them a one way ticket to return.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  12. Moe

    money....greedy....get out of country...

    July 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  13. Gail Snail

    The settlement that they want is outrageous. They purchased a $35.00 tray of samosas and they want 16 (sixteen) round-trip tickets to India as settlement. Give them 10 times what they paid for the samosas ($35.00 x 12 = $350.00) as settlement and close the case as settled.

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

      Listen up dothead. I'll give you a $350.00 coupon for your next visit. You don't like? I'll have my cousins Vinny No-Nose and Fat-Fingers Tony visit you to discuus it further.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  14. Mercury32

    Will everyone stop using the McDonald's coffee example. That situation was nothing like most people think and was manipulated at a time for the purposes pushing of tort reform. Anyone who casually uses the McDonald coffee example shows that they listen to what they hear and don't do research or follow up of their own.

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

      Oh you people that skim articles... The coffee incident wasn't mentioned, it was the beef tallow that McD's was putting in their vegetable oil that got them sued.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Lavanty

      We research and follow up AFTER we read the complete article/comment.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  15. Elizabeth

    The restaurant made a mistake but a trip to India seems too high a price when local temples are available. This probably isn't the first time they've ingested animal products, and at least the restaurant owned up to making a mistake. While I appreciate that they didn't try to sue the restaurant for everything they could get, I don't know if I agree on a full excursion to India, as they can surely find a temple in the USA to cleanse themselves. Perhaps the restaurant could foot the bill for them to travel to the nearest temple [there are some in NJ] and perhaps one night in a modest hotel. This way, they are not rushed through their purification ordinance. This would be a more affordable option for the restaurant, and the plaintiffs would receive the cleansing they seek. I don't pretend to be an expert on Hinduism but I doubt there is much difference between receiving a cleansing in NJ as opposed to in India. They should seek out local venues and base their faith on the ordinance, not the location. They'd probably have a better experience in NJ as I expect the temples aren't as crowded as in India.

    I am concerned that it seems the plaintiff's main aim is at retribution, rather than forgiveness. Do they not think there will be karmic repercussions for their actions against their fellow man? I, myself, as a vegetarian [for different reasons] have found myself in a similar situation where I was served meat rather than vegetarian food. I didn't, for a minute, think to sue or even raise a hullabaloo about it. I was upset, yes, but quick to forgive. Knowing it wasn't on purpose or out of spite, should bring them some peace. Mistakes happen to imperfect people by imperfect people. Let's be divine and forgive. 🙂

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

    This is insane... we have become so freaking tolerant to everyone's crazyness that honest and completely unintended errors are not longer forgiven... stay in India!!!!!!!!! We don't need your B/S here.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  17. sp2011

    The name of the eatery " Mughal" itself is suggestive of a non vegetarian restaurant.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  18. Herb (12th Apostle)

    I would like a definition of sin. If the act of eating meat meets the definition of sin, I would like some evidence that the Ganges is capable of cleansing that sin from you. If this holds as true, I am going to start suing for made up s**t too and claiming "spiritual damages" to pay for my airfare to...let's see...an oracle in Rome, a monk in Tibet, a basilica in France, or a witch doctor in Aruba. One of those should cleanse me of my "sin."

    July 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  19. HINDUISM PROMOTES UNTOUCHABILITY

    OH THIS SAME HINDUISM PROMOTES UNTOUCHABILITY ... TELL THEM GO TO HELL .

    ANSWER FIRST WHY THEIR HINDU RELIGION MAKES 25% OF THEIR INDIAN POPULATION AS UNTOUCHABLES, THEN WE CAN GO BACK TO VEG-NONVEG DISCUSSION.....

    July 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • WhatsYOUR RELIGION?

      I can find more than 10 points to counter you? lol

      July 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Lavanty

      Hinduism called their toilet and dung cleaners untouchables because they had not invented soap yet. But, I dont see you hug your janitors either.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Saasha

    Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society in Edison, does not understand the feeling of vegetarianism. Irrespective of whether they are Hindus or not, vegetarians world wide have a right to sue someone hurting their beliefs. There are a lot of vegans and vegetarians in America and not all of them are Hindu. Pradip does not represent Hindu or vegetarian's belief and his statement in the context of this news is baseless. I don't understand why he wants to be in the limelight of this news.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:26 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.