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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. Richard Cheese

    One more way religion spoils things. End religion and end idiotic behavior.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Kartiki

    This is ridiculous. What a way to get a ticket to a free India trip.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • mongome

      Hey, I wrote something similar to that effect and was called ignorant buy an Ihanni. Sounds to me like others are hoping to cash in on similar scams.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  3. Argwings

    Sounds like ways of quick easy money

    Give me all the beef samosas and take the vegies.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Krishan

    Suing for compensation is catching on to Indians as well... granted a mistake has been made, but do some soul searching, going to a Holy city like Haridwar to cleanse their souls is a far too much. They can get a bottle of Ganges River water rith in New Jersey and go to a temple.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • mongome

      Ah, but my lawyer says that I can get a free vacation at someone else's expense, and this does not bother my religious sensibilities so sueeeeee, heehee. Besides, my lawyer needs the money.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  5. mongome

    So how can these Hindus live in a country like the U.S. where cows are slaughtered on a large scale on a daily basis? Seems to me they should have stayed in India and avoided the mess that the U.S. is, trying to be everything to everybody. They must really be conflicted. Oh well, maybe they are going to get a free vacation. Now what can I see about so I can go on vacation? Hope that if they get an airline ticket there is a mix-up and they end up in Pakistan.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • lhanni

      You are obviously very ignorant.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • mongome

      Hey Ihmnnimanii moron, you are the ignorant one, or are you worried that if this lawsuit loses you will not succeed at your own scam?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • sesh

      Its a small penalty for the restaurant to pay, its not just Hindus or Indians who are vegetarians Jews for example have the right to demand Kosher food and not be lied to and fed non-Kosher.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  6. Mary

    I have every respect for Hindu religious beliefs. But the majority of people are completely unaware of where their food is coming from. All food has a cost. Everyone who eats is 'complicit in inflicting death and injury to God's creatures.' When a field of grain is harvested, what happens to the animals in the field when the big combines roll over them? What happens to the animals in the forest when the trees are cleared to plant vegetables there? When a dairy cow gives birth to a male calf she'll continue to give milk, but where does her calf go?
    If injuring God's creatures is truly what this suit is about, there is no case.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • mongome

      The suit is about a free trip home. If people truly are religious and believe in God, they would be less inclined to sue for monetary damages, injuring other people financially. Forgiveness is more cleansing than most polluted rivers like the Ganges, but of course lawyers will disagree.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Hari Om

      Well Said, Mary. I fully agree with your point as to where to draw the line. There is no case here.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  7. LK

    Though the act of suing for the trip to Ganges might be logically baseless, I can truly empathize how the folks would've felt eating meat because of the carelessness of the restaurant. This is the issue with the western world: Meat is taken for granted. There are several of examples to support this. For a lot of western world meat and veggies are not different but for vegetarians it is a world of difference and this society has to learn to appreciate and respect that. There is a lot of difference in living in a country with 400 yr old history compared to country with 5000+ yr of history this is surely one of them.

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

      Actually it is not an issue with the Western when people who want the benefits of immigrating there but keep their own culture in its entirety. While this incident is unfortunate and the restaurant should be fined, there are logical limits in a secular society. Can't be everything to everybody.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • LK

      @mongome : The USA stands for freedom and does not classify any limits on the same; be it religion, food, culture, work...you name it and this why the country attracts the brightest from around the world and a big reason why this country has flourished so well. So to me Freedom is to be what you are and not necessarily "Everything for everybody". If you have a problem with freedom, don't stay in USA. Oh, btw, how many countries have you even visited to know about secular society?

      July 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  8. Eye4Eye

    I think the restaurant should fund their trip for cleansing. Hey, if thats their belief, so it should be honored. But the court should also insist that these 16 morons should bring back the filtered/unpure part of their soul as proof that they have indeed been cleansed ! How else would we know that they have truly been cleansed.

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

      I'm supposedly a "muslim" and I'm not allowed to eat pork/ham/bacon but I often find it in my food even though I asked specifically not to have the meat in the food. Does that mean I can sue the restaurants? This is ridiculous.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  9. Phil

    As I understand it, non vegetarian Hindus should not be eating vegetarian food, if they are prepared near where non vegetarian food is cooked. In India vegetarians don’t go to no vegetarian restaurants and eat, even if they are going to eat vegetarian food.

    To me these people went to the restaurant to find as excuse to sue them.

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

      Read what you are writing, it is not making sense.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Phil

      In India vegetarians don't go to non vegetarian restaurants.
      If you are vegetarian, don't go to non vegetarian restaurants period.
      You don’t belong there…

      July 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Nadir

    Does anybody know what their address is in Edison? The so called "HINDUS"

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

      Yes. Take 66 to smelly Avenue exit. Turn right on Armpit avenue then left on curry drive. Look for red dot on front window. You will most likely be able to smell it as you get off 66.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  11. bb

    I understand the customers being offended. I work with some strict vegetarians from India and one became sick after eating food not in her regular diet. HOWEVER, the demand for an all expense paid trip to India for 'purification' for all the affected parties sounds a little opportunistic. I say this because pretty well every Indian person I work with regularly visits India every couple of years, and I would expect the plaintiffs in this story also make such regular visits. It sounds like they want a free ride. Besides, if they needed to be purified, what are they waiting for, they should have done that already regardless.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  12. RAWoD

    Such absolute nonsense. Believing in fairy tales isn't enough?

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

    I agree with the lawsuit to the extent that the restaurant should be fined but paying a trip to India and go to Haridwar to purify is an overkill. I guess someone wants a free vacation to India.

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

      i remember a few years ago a Hindu guy sued Taco Bell for a trip to India because he ordered a BEAN burrito but got served a BEEF one instead, he got his vacation from it

      July 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  14. Sun Stevens

    Man, if we could get rid of organized religion and partisan politics, imagine the Heaven on Earth that we'd have...

    July 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • BGM

      BTW, Hinduism is probably the only NOT organized religion.

      And of purification by taking a dip in the ganges in Haridwar..that is BS...they are just making it up, every Hindu will give you their own rule for purification. I come from hindu family of course.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • DC

      Amen!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  15. dailysinner

    O.K. I get the whole religious beliefs part, but it states in the article that they must take a trip back to India and a dip in the river to cleanse their sin. Um...I highly doubt that is the only sinful thing they have done while living their daily lives, so why should this additional 'sin' justify any trip?

    July 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • amanda

      in the Hindu religion eating a cow is like worshiping another god to Christians. its a big deal. I get the whole they should pay thing But im catholic. If i was molested im not suing the church to get a plane to the Vatican so he can forgive. Its just one of those things it happened it was bs but be an adult and let it go

      July 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Alverant

      @amanda
      If a person was abused by the catholic church, the pope should fly to him/her and ask their forgiveness, not the other way around. Don't forget who the victim is.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  16. Rafi Chowdhury

    Brian, based on your intelligence you could not be older than 7. Does your Mom know you're using her computer?

    July 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  17. mani

    The restaurent should be sued so entleast some else will take a note of it. I have been given the meat/egg more 2-3 times before even after request only vegetarian and no meat/fish or Egg.It still haut me sometime that i ate that. The biggest thing is that they didn't care much that it could really hurt someone who have never had those in the entire life.
    If you have eaten dog or a pet by accident will "get over it" work for you. It's the exact same feeling,

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

      then eat at home and stop attacking the integrity of the Civil Justice System

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

      @Cole you are one ignorent soul which has answer "if you don't like it then stay at home" for every issue.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Bnejamin

    Wait wait wait, so if I accuse a restaurant of angering my wood elve fairy friends, harming my spiritual health, I can get a free trip to anywhere in the world I claim will cleanse my soul? Sweet!

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

      Only if they openly promised not to offend your fairy friends and and you gave them your business based on that promise.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • driranek

      Yes yes yes! As a strict non-vegetarian, I find french fries cooked in anything except good ol' beef lard deeply offensive and require a trip to the surf of Maui as purification.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Joanna Shi

    The so called Holy rivers of India (Ganga in particular at Haridwar) are so badly poluted
    that the intended clensing would have the opposite effect. These 16 folks would come back to the US
    with many more unknown and strange diseases and put additional strain to the
    already strained the US health-care system. Here are my suggestions:

    1. If they insist of being cleansed at the Dirty Haridwar, deport all of them with a one way ticket,
    ensuring that they do not ever come back to the US.

    2. If they really really really insist on getting cleansed, let the court award each of them with twenty barresl of enema to be administered twice daily for the next 10 years at a Federal penitentiary in Mexico.
    Jai Hind

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

      1. You are trying to mix common sense with religion. That simply will never work.
      2. Why should they be deported? Their religious beliefs are no more or less valid than anyone else's.
      3. Don't punish them for taking the restaurant to task on this. The restaurant had every right to say they could not guarantee their food absolutely had no meat. But they did not want to lose business and did not want to take the time to ensure their promise was valid, and so just said yes. The restaurant only has themselves to blame for this.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Straight Shooter

    If my restaurant served you a turd inside your burrito, you would want to sue me. Well, to the Hindus, meat is just and inedible and disgusting as eating poo. That's why they are furious. The Hindus that I've ever met in America are always brilliant, so I know they can read. When they read the menu, and it said the food was vegetarian, they considered the food edible. Serving them animals was wrong of the restaurant and they should have to pay up, just like I would have to pay up if my staff served you a platter of turds.
    True, a trip to the Ganges IS a bit excessive, but it seems to serve as a warning to other restaurants more than actually a soul cleansing.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Straight Shooter

      oops, I meant to say that "meat is just AS terrible and inedible"

      July 22, 2011 at 2:17 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.