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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. love food

    Meat samosas taste better than veggie samosas!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  2. Davren

    They ate this in like 2007. If they were so concerned about cleansing thier sin, how come they didn't have the ritual done and ask for reimbursement? This is a ploy for money.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Justanother9

      2009 actually. And they've already been through one court and are heading to a 2nd. such processes take time. I'm not condoning their argument, just stating that a lawsuit doesn't happen overnight. If I can't even have my divorce completed in a year, suing a small restaurant isn't going to go any faster.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  3. Kannan

    Idiots want Free to ticket to goto India

    July 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Imagine

      If it gets them a free ticket, they do not look idotic would they? You on the other hand do look a little dense.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  4. shreesetty

    we are indians but not cheap!!! Each of us in the world have our own beliefs, so do not comment on others' beliefs be it religious or something else.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Indian

      Agree!!! And Pradip Kothari is making money on poor vegetarian people. New generation is trying to reduce corruption. Lets support the fact. Can I ask Pradip Kothari's house price?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  5. DivD

    This is so stupid..I am a Hindu.. My Mom used to make meat samosas all the time, may be i should sue her(Just kidding). These people are just opportunistic and want to get a free trip to India. There is no such thing as soul cleansing , total B.S.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • maens

      I wonder if they fly to India to clean up after they consume a beer. Can anyone confirm that. India has one of the best cane rum.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  6. James

    Now you are going to get a slew of Indians eating out in an attempt to get a free ride to India.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  7. mashi

    "eating meat is a sin", or "cleansing the body of the meat sin", "mental trauma" – all these are artifacts of the mind. be that what it may be, every one of these (and much more) should he seen from the perspective of that individual, there is no golbal or general perspective. whether it is the sin, or cleansing it – the law will side with what the victims say happened to them – it is not like a wound on the body or a damage to a car that can be quantified or tagged with a comparitive price. LOL.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  8. John Utah

    These people are misguided, no need for you to purify your soul or body if you unwittingly ate what is forbidden. In Islam no sin or wrongdoing if you ate something that is haram if you did not know it was forbidden. God is merciful and compassionate and the most Just of all. There is only one truth out there and it is our duty to find the truth. No blind faith, but truth of evidences and proofs.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  9. Common Sense

    How the brown smelly Dasa have twisted the words of the blue eyed Brahamin Ayran

    July 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  10. amit

    Doesn't matter how ridiculous other people's belief seem to one, one has no right to impose one's own believes on others. It's not just a religous matter, those customers could have been medically intolerant to meat. Case at hand is about a restaurant being utterly negligent in its services, for which it should be sued. Only sorry part is that by asking for only a plane tkt to India, the paintiffs show they do not put any value to their time, and only to the cost of plane ticket. If they were seriously hurt (sentiments wise), they should have sued for much more.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • RM

      Medical intolerance is not solved by a trip to a holy temple. If they had sued for medical expenses, then it is understandable. They have sued for plane tickets to a temple to cleanse their souls, something no one has proof that it exists even.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Utterly negligent? You have got to be kidding me. If you serve food that you left out for 3-4 hours that is utter negligence, if you mistake the meat and the vegetarian samosas, that is a simple mistake.

      If the diners were that concerned about not getting meat samosas, they should have found a vegetarian only place. After all, if they claim that eating meat makes them complicit in killing animals, then doesn't patronizing a place that serves meat also make them complicit?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  11. Russell

    I am of Indian origin, although not a Hindu. I agree that a mistake was made, and that may be the only issue here. The Indian restaurant did not intentionally serve them meat, and besides, there was no health-related effect from that mistake. If they are such puritans, then why did they venture out to eat at a restaurant, where potentially, the server could have touched meat right before preparing their 'vegetarian samosas.' This sort of sensitivity seems absurd, especially in a country which serves meat as a staple food. No offense to the vegans around!!
    A trip to India sounds a ludicrous demand, and I wonder if they would demand such recompense in India. A trip to the local jail would have been a great wake-up call to them!!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Lavanty

      Are you saying that putting an arbitrary value like 3million dollars on the agony caused to them is a better idea? Atleast they only wanted compensation equal to how much they 'required' to make this alright for them spiritually not how much they wanted for unnamed expenses.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  12. RM

    These cheapskates should not have been awarded a trip to the holy land but instead only enough money to buy a bowel cleanser and a mouth wash.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Indian

      Just one question:

      How much money did Mughal Express deposited into Pradip Kothari's pocket?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  13. vijay

    The intention may be different than most of us understand, but it is important to bring these kind of cases to trial because alot of atrocities have been done against animals and with animal products.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • ezra

      thank you! it's not "food" or "meat", it's a living creature that has been murdered.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      This is not about the animals, it is a frivolous lawsuit. Mistakes happen at every restaurant and every place will occasionally get an order wrong. Personal responsibility has to play a role here. If you are such a strict vegetarian that you can't eat meat, then check your order before you take the first bite. I am allergic to shrimp, and I can tell you that is exactly what I do before I bite into an egg roll sold at a restaurant that serves shrimp egg rolls in addition to other types.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  14. Neil

    I've been to Moghal Express many times and it is catered to Hindu's mostly with probably 90% of their business is Indians as the restaurant is Indian owned (or at least it was when I went). So, lets not make this about Hindus vs America like a lot do with Muslims vs America. This is a case of a Hindu owned restaurant getting sued by greedy & cheap Hindu diners.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  15. HINDU UNTOUCHABLES

    WOW .. THESE HINDUS PRACTICE UNTOUCHABILITY IN INDIA, AND 25% INDIANS ARE UNTOUCHABLES.

    YOU CAN READ MANY ARTICLES ONLINE... AND THESE HINDUS ARE PREACHING ETHICS HERE...

    July 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • eastwest

      whats your religion I have list of some counters for every religion lol even for hinduism of course. Take best part of everything if you have habit of looking the worst part you become one lol. Oh for your information untouchability is not part of hinduism. People followed it for their own benifits long time back and British take advantage of that. After independence its illegal. No one practices it in this generation.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • HUM

      It is sad, but true, untouchability is part of Indian Society in this modern world.

      If and Indian says NO, they have to open eyes, go to India and see those people fate, not just sitting in us and talking.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  16. Erin

    They claim they needed to "purify their souls". But, they ate it unknowingly. So wouldn't they only need to "purify their souls" if they ate it knowingly? Like, if they chose to "taint their souls" and would therefore need to "purify their souls" as a way to make up for it. If it's an accident it would seem outside the scope of need for purification.

    It's frivolous and they don't deserve a trip to India. This is the risk of ordering food made by someone else. If you take the risk of not knowing 100% what is in the food that you did not make then you must accept the risk that there could be something in the said food that you would not be willing to eat if you had otherwise made it yourself. Period. I understand that they were mislead, and that is sad, but that's life and get over it.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • VeggieMan

      Really good point. I'm vegetarian and this is why I prepare at least 90% of the foods I eat. That way, I know what I am putting in my body. The only times I eat out are when I feel pressured/persuaded by friends to be social. I think America is messed up in the fact so many people celebrate life happenings with food. This is very dangerous at 1500+ calories per entree at many American standard chain restaurants. When I 'pig out' on some super-dooper, gourmet-style dinner I have prepared, it virtually never reaches more than 500 calories... and I had really over-indulged. The American diet is killing its' own people.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Arjun

      I am pure veg Hindu. But few time I ate non veg by mistake not knowing it. It is more difficult to distinguish in American restaurants. But I just took bath and prayed. Take some spiritual oaths to purify from the sin. Nothing purifies the soul as the chanting of the holy name of God.
      So these people are trying to extract some money. So sad that the behavior of few people like this brings shame on entire community.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  17. viki

    Hindus are not supposed to cross the ocean either. If they do, their souls need to be purified. So these guys are hindus when it suits them. This whole thing reminds me of an incident that happened few years ago on board to a flight to India. This gentlemen finished almost the entire meal and then called the flight attendant to ask whether he was served beef. After lot of dramatics that went for almost five minutes, he was pacified only when he was served a new chicken meal. I felt like a super intelligent alien who can distinguish among pork, beef, lamb, chicken and goat meat just by looking at them. Ha Ha!!

    By the way, on a totally different note, how do you think it would go if a jew or a muslim is served pork?

    For personal attackers, I'm an agnostic born in a hindu family.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Lavanty

      .....if a muslim is served pork or if a christian is served (wait, they eat everything?) human meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  18. AllahSux

    Idiots... More than likely they will win because we all know that "Justice" is for the highest bidder these days.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  19. eastwest

    I am hindu eat meat except beef when someone ask me why I dont eat one of my reason is in china and korea they eat dogs can you eat your puppys? lol oh you love them? come on my korean friend said they are delicious. They primarily don't eat cows for two reasons one: its beloved animal of one of their gods two: in rural india they sell milk of cows and make a living on that. How can you kill the loved ones which support your family?? got it? If not eat your puppy lol

    July 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  20. Sane Indian against Indian Hypocrisy

    .... 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 1:09 pm |
    • eastwest

      people everywhere take advantage of system. It has nothing to do with religion. Lawyers here gave them feeling everyone can be sued to get big money. Its misusing of a good system not meant for. Do anyone sue elsewhere if this happens? even in india?? no one cares even lawyers courts don't care.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:15 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.