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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. vegetarian

    This & any resturant that decieves vegetarians into eating animal products should be punished financially.

    I hope they win their lawsuit

    July 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Vegetarian as well and hindu

      Religion is a such beautiful tool.. Twist it any which way to benefit yourself.. If there beliefs are so weak and they can be affected like this, then are not true believers anyway. I wish I was there with them,, really need a vacation on someone else dime. by the way this goes all religions out there.. come on people what happened to forgiveness which all religion teaches.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • intothefire

      @as well as, Ding ding ding!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  2. SC

    The restaurant should be closed. What if I am allergic to meat and I eat it and die. would the restaurant say sorry. All the stores in that Oak Tree road should be closed. I went to a beauty parlor once to get my eyebrows done and the woman she did such a bad job, I started bleeding. She was a elderly woman and I just forgave her. But owners of all those stores, they think they can do anything and nobody would complain.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Harry Pairatestes

      "What if I am allergic to meat and I eat it and die?"

      We can only wish.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • kimmy

      It took her forever because you are ugly

      July 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • sld1016

      What if a meteor hits while your eating? What if you get a speeding ticket while driving (are you going to sue the car manufacturer?) What if you trip and fall on the sidewalk (we should rip them all up) what if, what if, me, me, me. Get a life and take responsibility for it. YOU are responsible for what YOU do. No one else.

      And all the stores on that road should be closed? Really? You are a loon.

      Do these people deserve an apology? sure; do they deserve a trip around the world? no.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      "I went to a beauty parlor once to get my eyebrows done and the woman she did such a bad job, I started bleeding. She was a elderly woman and I just forgave her."
      No, actually, it sounds like you didn't.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • RG

      I bet all 16 enjoyed their SAMOSA's and didn't had money to pay for them.. I like it.. Next time I use same trick.. Mogul express is close to my house..

      July 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • mongome

      You could just stay home and spare us all the drama.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • BG...

      Have you ever heard somebody dying from eating meat, you morron

      July 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  3. Sam

    Looney folks trying to make a quick buck...

    July 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  4. PhillyMark

    Look, you don't have to travel to India for purification. The very idea is absurd, given the general lack of purification that 800 million Indians endure on a daily basis. If they had been hurt physically, fine, but emotional damage due to eating one of God's creatures is absurd. This case should be settled with a six month supply of actual veggie somosas. Case dismissed.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Imagine

      They "dont" have to travel to India? They "should not" object to meat in samosas?

      Lord PhillyMark is dictating how others should feel and think. Just like a billion small minds around the world.

      I am glad I am in the US, free of oppression from such idiots.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  5. Sane Indian against Indian Hypocrisy

    Man ... I am an Indian .. been living in USA for 7 yrs now ... and I consider myself Hindu ....the good teschings only n not the B.S> ...

    but anyways .. wot I wanna say is ... I am so used to US style now .. tht Beef Steak is my most fav dinner course ...... anytime I go to India for more thn 3 weeks .. I start going mad ... cos I can't find beef there ....

    The First thing I do after arriving at US airport is hit the Steak house .... hhhmmm delicious ....

    I am also a avid fan of Beef Burritos .. Beef Chimichanga .. and Mac .. Beef Mc-Griddle ..... hhhmmmmm

    .... Religious dictatorship belief and a Rational Belief are two different things !!!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • KB

      who gives a damnt....useless comments

      July 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Imagine

      Even the deamons have a place in Hinduism. No one would say you are any less Hindu.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Joanna Shi

      Very interesting, you have been in US for more than 7 years, and yet cannot write a gramatically correct sentence
      without spelling errors !

      July 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  6. saganhill

    What? YOu can sue for corruption of the soul? Really? And what reality do these fundies live in?

    July 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Imagine

      If you learn to read, you would learn that they sued for breach of contract.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  7. Luis Wu

    Just goes to illustrate how utterly stupid all religious people are. No matter what their religion.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • tim Ricard

      there are athiestic vegitarians who would also sue for the same situtation

      July 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Imagine

      Or it shows how intolerant you are of other people's beliefs. By calling them stupid, you are judging your belief system to be superior to theirs – on what basis, I do not know.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  8. John

    This is stupid. "Emotionally hurt"? Stupid religions.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Imagine

      Comes from someone who calls himself "John", a name that has Abrahamic origins.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  9. headline news

    Welcome to the hall of fame-Meat Samosas!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  10. the_dude

    There are starving kids in india who would love to have some meat samosas

    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  11. Mark

    "A state appellate court ruled Wednesday that they can sue for the cost of travel to India to purify their souls."
    HOW RIDICULES!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Imagine

      Love the land that is the United States!

      July 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  12. Dave

    P.E.T.A. = People Eating Tasty Animals

    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Yes, there's a place for all God's creatures... right next to the mashed potatoes.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Imagine

      Imagine Luis would say the same about placenta soup.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  13. Dave

    If god didn't want people to eat animals he wouldn't have made them out of meat!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Freethinksman

      I'm going to borrow this. Thanks!

      July 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Imagine

      Your hands and legs are also made of meat. By the same logic, eat'm.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Nash

    Welcome to America !

    July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  15. Joe

    More examples of "Gujus"...

    July 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Ruby

      Let me correct you here Mr. Joe. The two diners named in the article are not gujjus. If you go by their names, there last names suggest they are not Gujjus but north indians. If one doesn't know about a caste or creed, they need to be careful before making such racist comments, it hurts other people.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Imagine

      @Ruby.. You pathetic apologist racist.

      @Joe – M.K. Gandhi was also a Gujju.. He won a free India. How do yo like them apples?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  16. Davesh98

    I've been spiritually damaged by reading this article. You must make me whole again by paying for my bicycling trip to Moab so I can commune with the mountains and again become whole.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Justanother9

      The fault in your logic is that you had the choice to stop reading at any time. Because they were unaware, particularly since they clearly asked if these were non-vegetarian, that there was meat in their food, they did not have a choice whether or not to consume the food. As an alternative point, I'm allergic to MSG. If I go to a restaurant and ask them if there is MSG in the food and they explicitly tell me there is no MSG in the food and they are wrong, they can be held liable for any damages. I don't even have to tell them I'm allergic – the expectation is that if I ask if the food contains X, they should be honest about it.

      Now, I don't necessarily agree that they should be paying for a trip to India, particularly as others of the faith have expressed that there is no need to go so far, but they should be held for any missed wages that these individuals earn at work if they missed a day in order to cleanse themselves. This doesn't even need to go to court. It would simply be the ethical thing to do for lying to a customer.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • a-20

      A restaurant would then have to list every ingredient in the dish. Also, MSG is naturally present in foods like cheese, fish, oysters, clams, cured meat, tomatoes, asparagus, and soy sauce. Most restaurants get foods like these from a supplier, who has to list the ingredients. Are you expecting that a supplier will list every chemical compound in a stalk of asparagus? MSG in food is completely different than meat in a vegetable dish.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  17. VeggieDoc

    They should all get colonoscopies....that will cleanse them !!!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  18. MENU

    DId you tell people same to those people who sued mcdonald for $10 mil.
    .

    July 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  19. Venkatesh

    I am a vegetarian Hindu from India and these cheap Hindus are here to make a quick buck. At the very least , they want a free return trip to India.
    Cleanse your soul my foot !!!. They should be ashamed of themselves and the community needs to shun them out for such cheap tactics. I mean maybe the restaurant owner can give them some vouchers for free food – just for customer service, but thats about it. I hope they lose in the court and get slapped with court costs for frivolous compain.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Leo027

      Dude you need to relax. There are cases here in the US where companies were forced to shut down after paying millions in fine when samples of nut were found in nut-free food. This case is no different. The restuarant owner would get out cheaply if he just payed the Indians for a trip to India.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Imagine

      Well – you are from India and do not have an American mindset. Americans hold people accountable for their mistakes. Hence the lawsuit.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Ruby

      I completely agree. Such people only bring shame to the community.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  20. robertcisco

    My point is this: Sin is when someone does something "intentionally" which is not allowed by his/her religion. In this case they accidentally ate it without knowing. Therefore it is NOT a sin and doesn't require them to travel to India for the dip in Ganges. At best they should be compensated for the wrong order plus a little extra for their trouble.

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

      Sorry, dude. Wrong. The word sin comes from an archery term meaning "to miss the mark". Therefore, all one has to do is not accomplish what they set out to do, and they sin. It's as simple as that.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:34 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.