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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. little lucy

    Wait... this happen two years ago???? So they've been unpure and sinning for the past two years??

    July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  2. morsecoder

    Get over it, morons.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  3. little lucy

    Are you kidding me?? Go home and cook your own darn food!!!! If you want to make sure you stay pure then don't eat out and put yourself at risk for eating the wrong thing!! These people are pathetic.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Nikhil

      little lucy,,, you don't understand the issue even though it might be forged and motivated for money, i still think this is a serious issue which must have serious consequences for hurting peoples beliefs. if you are not a vegetarian and religious then you have no right to comment here because you dont know any better and if you dont anything it is wise to just stfu ... LOL

      July 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  4. Juan

    I imagine that if this story was about a child with a peanut allergy, who had eaten a product claiming to not contain nuts, that the comments here would be very different.

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

      because thats an entirely different case, these guys werent physically harmed at all so ur argument is completely invalid. anyone could easily claim spiritual harm just like people frivolously use emotional damages as a reason for exorbitant amount of money. so ill go there and say these patrons are americanized Hindus who should be ashamed of themselves

      July 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  5. Jack

    People, if you're so dedicated to your religion and picky about what you eat, stay home and cook the food your self!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Nikhil

      Jack, i appreciate you taking your time to comment but put yourself in the situation and then think ...

      July 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • intothefire

      Nikhil, and....? No one is forced to eat out and if ur rules a strict its not the markets job to create special places just for u, its the decision of individual business owners. So, too damn bad if u dont like it but jack is not wrong. Now if u wanna respond at least actually say something that has meaning cuz "think about what you said" is the argument someone uses when they dont have anything better to say

      July 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Nikhil

      @intothefire: I am sorry I should have been more specific considering there are so many slow people here but it's ok you are not alone 🙂

      "special places" you say for an Indian to go to an Indian restaurant and specifically asking for Veg Samosas is there anything special here ??
      Business is based of trust, you give someone money and expect what you paid for, does this makes sense ? in this case, the trust is broken and there must be consequences...
      now I am not saying the trip to India justifies it cuz it sounds very tacky, but it is appropriate for the diners to sue the establishment...

      July 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  6. gopinath

    What a waste of time. Being vegie is good, but this is too much.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. DALALEAH

    WOW!!! THESE PEOPLE ARE BEING OVERLY EXAGERRATED. Dont get me wrong, the restaurant was definitely in the wrong for serving them meat, but i dont think they should have to pay for them to go to india, especially since it was 2 SUMMERS ago. these people just want someone to pay for a vacation. besides it"s true, god (any god your serve) teaches you to forgive. and god will understand, clearly it wasnt something they meant to do. They need to get a life and stop giving hindus a bad name

    July 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  8. Brian

    Well God tells us in the Bible which animals humans can consume, and cows fall under that category. They are kosher animals, and I'm sorry but the Bible trumps Hinduism any day. But the restauraunt should definitely be held accountable for making such an eggregious error of serving a food that these customers apparently emphatically said they did not want.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • jb

      The Bible will not tell me me what to eat. It was written by men with no inspiration.

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

      I completely agree that the people who sued this restaurant are nuts. But in your comments when you say that the Bible trumps Hinduism is offensive to say the least. I do not want to go into offending Christians, whom I respect as any other religion. But mind your language.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • killallthewhiteman

      You know what trumps the bible?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Vick

      Brian, reallly? The Bible trumps Hinduism? You need get your head checked out. That iis the most arrogant comment I have heard. Hinduism has been around alot longer than your precious bible.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • intothefire

      Vick, ur argument gave me quite the laugh. ur response to him saying the bible is better was to say that hinduism is better. I agree that hinduism is better is so many ways that christians should be embarassed but u dropped urself down to his level with that comment

      July 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  9. gaucho420

    What a bunch of utter BS. Here we are entertaininig the grand deluisions of religious morons.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. willy

    So Karma holds us responsible for things we can not control? Scarey.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  11. Religion Pays If You Beg Hard Enough

    Can I have a side of fries with that burger? What do you mean the potatoes didn't come from Idaho? I'm going to need a vacation in Australia to cleanse my mind of this incident.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  12. BG...

    They eat worse than meat

    July 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Gregory Lehman

    We need laws to punish people putting forth frivolous lawsuits which clog up the legal system.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  14. John B

    I'm suing also. My particular religious beliefs require a purification ritual involves the ingestion of large amounts of tequila whilst lying on a warm Bahamian beach.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Crindy

      You'd want rum there:)

      July 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Paul

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA That was good!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Paul

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      July 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  15. Joe

    This is a clear case of breach of trust. Mughol restaurant should be sued for millions of dollars, not just a trip to the Ganges. Why should the Hindus suck it up if they got what they didn't order, and it is hurtful to their religious beliefs?

    July 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Gregory Lehman

      Joe, wow, so you've never made a mistake in your life. Pretty impressive dude.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • intothefire

      because theyre' huge pu$$ies who dont deserve a god damn thing

      July 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Megan F

      Sue for Millions of Dollars, are you kidding Joe...all they should get is the order refund.

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

      @megan – you would too, if you are served dog meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • desidown

      They ate meat without knowing that they were eating it. That is not considered a sin. It can only be bad Karma for the restaurant owner. I am a Hindu and my first trip back to India I took a few dozen jello packets for folks back home without actually trying to find out how gelatin is made 🙂 After I told them what I had found they were not too troubled since it was not really their fault. The ones i anticipated problems with I have not told them yet 🙂

      July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Linda

    It's got to be a little inconvenient to have to go to India to have your sins forgiven and be purified. I have an idea–why don't they stay in India??? Yeah–that's the solution to this serious spiritual situation–Hindus should stay in India; Indians should stay in India; Mexicans should stay in Mexico; terrorists should stay in whatever country is supporting them-wow, I may have broken new ground here in solving problems in the United States.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Joe

      Guess I need to go back to Ireland then :). And Linda, where do you intend to go back to?

      July 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • intothefire

      fortunately the irish are tough unlike these weaklings who are "emotionally scarred" by a mistake at a restaurant. what does a normal person do? they just dont go back to that restaurant!! omg thats so hard!!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Imagine

      @intothefire – you need to learn the American ways of the court system. That is what normal people would do.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Nikhil

      Linda I can only wonder how painful and pathetic your life is with all the hatred you have, i feel so sorry for you,, please get some help, you are so sick it is making me sick too ... this is on a serious note 🙂 one place for a suggestion for people like you HELL. ... if you don't have money for it which i am sure you don't, use the welfare which i am sure you already are on and take a ticket to HELL ,,, LOL... enjoy 🙂

      July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Sure

      You are so right...no American has ever committed a crime against another American. Remember the Oklahoma City bombings...blond hair, blue eyed American. Linda you are an idiot.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Lavanty

      Yeah, let's all go back and leave america to the natives. Booked your tickets yet?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Huh

      @Linda, you are a racist idiot, why don't YOU go back from where YOU came from. As a Hindu, I don't believe a trip to India is in order but maybe some compensation.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • desidown

      come one ppl ! Linda has shown unparalleled ignorance in her post. What makes you think she even knows the history of the United States. That's too much to ask for. Linda , we are already here , deal with it.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • desi

      yes, we should all go back and give this land back to Native Americans

      July 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • intothefire

      No theres over 300 million people in the US and if normal people did that then we would have exponentially more frivolous lawsuits then we already do. So the day there is 50 million lawsuits against restaurants then you'll be right til then its a tiny tiny minority that would sue for something like this

      July 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  17. HaHa

    If these 16 manage to win, the restaurant should make sure these people don't make a vacation of their trip. Fly over, take a dip in the ganges, (take a shower after) and fly right back. 🙂 That's all they get.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  18. Sachin

    They are right & they have full right to sue them. To all people who are condemning their action don't forget this is the country where

    1. Person has sued a chain who gave her a hot coffee but did not mention on the lid of the cup. That's why you see note "Content may be hot"
    2. If burglar fell down why doing burglary, he can sue you.

    Than why these people are wrong they have full right. If Jews take pride in "Kosher" food, Muslim for "Halal" & than what is wrong is saying a strict vegetarian.

    If you are paying money for the stuff than why shouldn't you fight if you don't get it.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • intothefire

      and all those previous lawsuits were wrong too!!! that doesnt justify continuing with frivolous lawsuits. damn right they should fight having been given the wrong food, by refusing to pay. not by whining like school children and expecting that much financial compensation. Most Hindus from India are probably embarassed by this BS

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

      Nope we arent. Take the Moghuls to the cleaners Hindu brothers!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • desidown

      sachin : The first case you mention actually had merit. It is a common misconception that it was a frivolous lawsuit. The issue was not that the coffee was hot but the coffee was TOO hot. If the coffee was at a temperature all other establishments provided the lady would have suffered from less severe burns. She just wanted McDonald's to pay her medical bills which would have been a prudent thing to do for them. The lawsuit was brought on only after they refused to do so. They got what they deserved, though they did not learn their lesson and hence the hiding of the beef flavoring in fries.

      The second case you mention is just an incorrect urban legend. Even if there was a lawsuit like this it would be thrown out immediately.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • intothefire

      Well Lavanty then im gonna have to say u have officially spoken for all Hindus and just assume ur money grubbing useless sacks of **** like the Americans who do stuff like this already are. have fun being compared to really morally corrupt people

      July 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • CC

      The case you are refering to was about a 79 year old lady who suffered third degree burns on her thighs, buttocks, and groin after spilling a McDonalds coffee on her body. Two years of medical treatment followed. The temperature of the coffe was found to be of 180–190 F, enough to cook chicken soup. A lawsuit to McDonalds seemed to be entirely justifiable, not this bozos suing for their "purification" trip.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  19. Vikas

    the price of religion is a ticket to India – Amazing !!!

    July 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  20. Megan F

    This shows how stupid the human species really is.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:49 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.