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. GB

    Well clever way to visit family and friends for free .Just returned from India spending 4k on 3 air tickets 🙁

    July 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  2. kevin

    I bet they realized that the samosas had meat in it after the first bite but it was soooo good that they could not stop!!!

    July 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • lavakava

      all of you white trash burger lovers, next time try mcdoggie and kitty fajitas....yummmmm!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Lavanty

      Im sure you'd sue too if you found human fingers in your french fries..one man's food is another man's repulsion.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  3. James

    What happened to separation of church and state?

    July 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • tj

      I think we need to add temples to that clause

      July 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Josef

      Seperation of church and state? That applies to government, not private enterprise. This is a civil court matter with a private business.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  4. moveon

    Using religion to extort money

    July 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  5. John

    Wow how could they not smell the meat? This is obviously a scam.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Lavanty

      hmm..maybe because the tray was labelled veg and they were told there was no meat in it?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  6. Richard S Kaiser

    Veggies, Hot dogs, Fish; Whatever one eats, WE are still Plain Old OMNIVORES with a Canundrum in Consumptions of Life,,,,,,,

    July 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  7. Shawn

    I should create a religion that makes me have to purify my soul in Hawaii every time I consume onions, order a hamburger, and claim I had no idea onion was in it. It's not a free vacation, it's to purify my soul. Pay up.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  8. Was it Pre-Planned?

    Common sense!!

    Mughal Express – as the name says is a non-veg restaurant. Why would you want to order Veggie samosas from there? I think this was pre-planned to sue them.

    I will be very surprised if the restaurant fried chicken and samosas in different oil and/or pan.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Rob

    What they did is wrong.. unless they can somehow prove it was intentionally done! .. the first reaction should be to send a complaint to the Food Inspection people .. Sueing them is wayyyyyyyyy over the line.

    I am Hindu as well.. but i wont sue them over it.. ill go get a refund [not exchange] and perhaps never visit the place again if in anyway felt they weren't sorry about it.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  10. Rich

    While clearly a mistake was made and I can understand why it offended these customers on a very personal level, I believe they are overreacting. Surely there's a middle ground somewhere.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Colonic Cleanser

    Hey, why the reporting of abuse? I was only recommending a little enema. Why so bitter, ppl?

    July 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  12. Disgusted...

    The diners in question are horrible people. People make mistakes. They were eating in an Indian establishment so I am sure the servers were sensitive to their needs and made an honest mistake. The diners should get a one way ticket out of the country because they are more driven by money than actual religious convictions. They should be shamed from their places of worship because they have shown they are more about the almighty dollar and free trips than pursuing their beliefs.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Raj

      If the servers were really 'sensitive' to their needs, they would've asked the kitchen guys if it had meat. Good American restaurant servers do that.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Josef

      If they live in the US, they're almost guaranteed to have eaten meat accidentally unless they NEVER eat out. Restaurants and such reuse cooking oil all the time. Processed foods? Stuff like hydrolyzed beef protein is very common as a flavoring.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  13. Anonymous Observer

    What a crock! There's a word for these people, it's called TOUGH! As in, you accidentally ate some meat, well, tough crap. Everyone involved should be embarrassed except for the restaurant. Does anyone know how tough it is to get an attorney to take a malpractice case unless a doctor left a scalpel in your belly...since when are restaurants held to the highest standard of precision and professionalism. Lastly, Hindus also have a caste system in which contact with the lowest level of their society 'untouchables' merits the same cleansing and has also resulted in those lower level folks to have acid thrown in their face for accidentally touching a higher level hindu! They should just get over themselves and stop taking things so seriously.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Raj

      Are you a time traveller ? Seems you last visited India in a thousand years ago. Go to any city or town now, and see if you notice that crap now.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Brian

      Spoken like a true Brahmin Raj...your head is so far up your behind that you don't notice everything around you is brown....and thats because it smells like India...and that makes it home to you.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • abi

      what about the way you treat blacks?

      May 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. koruthu george

    It seems the hindus sueing the resturant are holy (cows) they have no sin! .If they take dip in the river they drown, the hotel will have to give damage.May God forgive.These Hindus will pay the damages done for the same hotel.Hope the cows will not return to USA.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Raj

      Why would it matter to you anyways ? Keralites like yourself, went to the middle east decades ago, left their religion and became muslims to get good benefits there. Religion is just a play for you.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  15. carebear

    Gimme a break. They can go to their neighborhood temple and be cleansed/forgiven – they're totally trying to get a free trip to India through this bogus lawsuit.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • A_Hindu


      July 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  16. Jellybean

    Well one thing's for sure. Although these Indians have strongly held to their Hindu beliefs, they've sure taken on America's favorite hobby of suing anyone over anything.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  17. SK

    congratulations CNN for another useless article....i think we are getting to a new low in reporting....

    July 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • mama panda

      Not a useless article at all. Between the article itself and some of the comments from Hindus, I've learned something new about a religion I know little about. Useful, maybe not. Worth knowing, yes.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Rich

      Huh, see, it's interesting and news to me. I guess my vote negates yours.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • DC

      you've obviously never had the pleasure of a glorious little meat filled pillow cross your lips

      July 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Sensor

      This is a blog.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Raj

      And yet you read the complete article and commented on it.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  18. Samosa Lover

    I want Samosas

    July 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Lycidas

      They are good 🙂
      A good chicken tikka masala is the best though with a little fresh baked nan on the side.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  19. Dale R

    What the hell is wrong with people? It's just FOOD, that's like Pizza Hut suing Little Caesars for making a Veggie Pizza, who cares?

    July 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Obviously the Hindu ppl in question do. Of course their are ppl like the Jews, Catholics and vegans that also really care how certain foods are made.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Darthlawsuit

      seems soemone does.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  20. ....

    no dont!
    i love what 10 inches says!
    he is a genius

    July 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Guess you'll have to go somewhere else to read his tripe.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
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About this blog

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.