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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. gr8rtst

    And I'm sure that retribution is fully sanctioned under Hindu beliefs. The karmic balance of inadvertently serving meat vs the thousands of dollars worth of legal fees and compensation is way off. Maybe just having the proprietors do some community service at the local Hindu temple to understand the religion a bit better would be a better compromise.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • D

      I thought community service was only an option for criminal cases. This is surely a civil case, which means it is all about $$.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  2. Prettygal

    As a pure vegetarian, I do not eat at restaurants which are not PURE vegetarian. As far as I am concerned, they are contaminated.(and risky, as proved by the above). Vegetarian, save your money, do not eat out at all.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Ribeye!!

      Its friday pretty gal. I am going to enjoy a juicy ribeye steak today!
      Hope you loathe in the misery of your dumbness.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • K

      ooohhhh ribeye Yummy!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • KlausVos

      You've posted at least three times in the last five minutes. Please shut up.
      Nobody cares what you think about vegetarianism/veganism.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Veggie

    I'm a veggie and have accidentally been served meat and felt extremely grossed out. When I was younger I would vomit when this happened and be very upset for quite a long time. I feel similar feelings about eating meat. HOwever, I chalk those experiences up to lesson learned–don't eat at such and such restaurant. Check my food first to be sure of what I'm eating, etc. I would not ever imagine suing a restaurant in this way. I have had people slip meats into my food and tell me it was veggie. I don't stay friends with such people or allow them to make me food ever again but again, no suing.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  4. Amar

    I am a Hindu, but these guys are taking this too far. They can cleanse themselves next time they go to india instead of trying to get free flight tickets to India. Even if they do win this case, they should be forced to visit just haridwar and come straight back to US (not let them visit their family and friends).

    July 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  5. MCP123

    Yeah all the Indians are here taking our I.T. jobs... don't like meat... make your dang veggie meal at home...

    July 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @MCP123

      You Said: "Yeah all the Indians are here taking our I.T. jobs... don't like meat... make your dang veggie meal at home..."

      Hmmm... So, it's the 'Indian's fault' that they have "our" I.T. jobs...?

      You might want to re-think that one a bit. Seems to me to smack of some ignorance and bigotry.

      Peace...

      July 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  6. mpt1123

    How about giving them one-way tickets........

    July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  7. Destro

    I am done with this nonsensical religious and spiritual cr@p. If they got served non veg, big deal, Its not the end of the world. Their are people dying of hunger in India, tell ur all important problems to those guys and see what they think. I have nothing against ppl who follow their religion at home but I have a piece of mind to give those who pursue it outside.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  8. sureace

    Great stuff for the late nite comics.............am a hindu too.....an this is way too funny....maybe should stop callin myself a hindu cuz of jokers like this.....they need to get a life and move on....it all comes out from the other end anyways:)

    July 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  9. imma notaraghead

    retards.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  10. Strict vegetarian

    Haha...this is hilarious...I also want a free trip..someone try to feed me piece of meat.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Tim Riker

    I am a strict vegetarian, but I do not practice any religion which forbids or discourages the consumption of meat. I do not eat meat, animal byproducts such as dairy and eggs, and a lot of processed wheat products because I get fatigue, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and gas. My food reaction aside, there are a lot of health benefits of a vegan/vegetarian diet, including preventing and treating obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • KlausVos

      I would like to point out that your gastrointestinal upsets are likely due to not eating meat for a long period.
      But whatever, it's your choice and it's no skin off my nose.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Prettygal

    I think these claimants may be Brahmin, or some other high caste which does forbid all meats. My parents, also strict orthodox hindus, do not eat eggs, fish, meat, or chicken. There are hindus who do follow a very strict diet for cultural, religious, and caste reasons. I have never had meat. If this happened to me, heck, I would sue. The restaurant workers may have done it on purpose. It should be punished.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      If you're buying into this whole "high caste" think you're as racist as they are.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Kamesh

      You are a racist!! Caste system is the Indian version of racism!!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Indian

      prettygirl ... don't show your smartness.. the way you are writing shows your dumbness.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Gotbeef

      You are the worst kind! Ignorant little religious fantatic brat! Brahmins my a***! Yuck! Go back under that rock you crawled out from.!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • KlausVos

      Yeah, because we should all sue over every little affront to our personal religions, even accidents.
      What does the Hindu faith say about accidental consumption? I bet it doesn't require you to cleanse yourself in the Ganges for eating a small amount of meat accidentally.
      It sucks and the restaurant should have been more careful, but it isn't worth 32 plane tickets and 16 Hotel rooms.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  13. sureace

    yup, o one way ticket to hell....and they can take it up with the devil....Heeee Heeeeeeeeeee...way too funny......Om shanti shantiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

    July 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Kris

    If I were the restaurant owner I'd just say, "It's against my religion to give you my money." lol Disaster Averted ;]

    July 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  15. YUMMYBEEF

    Bull ! is all i can say to these hyprocritic religious numbnuts!. You kidding me!. I work with a lot of these so called vegetarians. These are the worlds greatest hyocritics who follow ridiculous cult like rituals, rituals written by pot smoking swamis during the bronze age. Forget the bronze age, stone age is more apt!. Yes these swamis do actually smoke pot. Not making that up! These same guys wear LEATHER shoes, have LEATHER seats in the car, their homes, their purses, wallets....all made of LEATHER. Nothing wrong with that eh? I have no issues with vegetarians who have it as a choice for health reasons. But the rest ..bleh!

    Emotional and spiritual harm??? Have you guys seen the inhumane,unhygenic,disease ridden and rotten condtions these cows roam around there? Deplorable!! Oh the Tanneries where the make the leather..thats a gem by itself!

    Forget the cows...ever seen how these same Vegetarain guys treat a fellow human becasue they were born into a certain caste or religion. Most arrogant racist people you will ever see. Not eating meat doesnt make you good person while your forget the very essence of human compassion forgiveness or kindness all which is what Hinduism is suposed to be. With most of them its just a club of cult practicsing blind ignorant nuts! Dont even get me started with the ones on top of the manuaretlist..viz brahmins.

    I say these guys should win their case so that they can go dip their hypocrtic sorry asses in the Ganges and catch every bacteria and parasite possible from tape worms to ecoli and s*** in their pants for the next 6 months and "clense" the colon! :=)

    Rest my case.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      Good point, the wealthy so-called "upper caste" Hindus are the most disgusting racists I have ever seen in my life.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Desi01

      Uninfromed prejudice, hypocrite, ignorant and a typical frog in the well American.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Prettygal

      I think you are a muslim. I rest my case.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • lolstoptrolling

      lol you realize most leather is procured from cows you guys are already slaughtering? Why waste all the leather leftover in the slaughterhouses?

      July 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • 4kidzsake

      Sadly you are no better then the ones bringing this lawsuit. You are predjudice and are stereotyping vegetarians. Obesety runs in our fmily. A family who never eats fast or fired foods. One of our children became a strict vegetarian to see if they could combat this ongoing disease we have carried for generations. This yuth is writing the study of thier findings and has now gone to strict vegan to see if it actually will improve deteriorated eye site and other issues.
      Being vegetarian is a choice, some for health, some for religion but nonetheless they should be allowed to request vegetarian foods and expect to be served it if the restaurant states they have it. In this case however the law suit is ridiculous and over the top hurtful for the restaurant who clearly said they made the mistake and the Hindu people who seek forgiveness and not act as this small group is doing. You on the other hand should stop stereo typing when you have no freakin clue why someone chooses a certain lifestyle. Yours obviously is not a happy one if you must speak such ways against others.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Ribeye!!

      @4kidzsake
      If you read my para i very clearly said " I have no issues with vegetarians who have it as a choice for health reasons. But the rest ..bleh! "
      Infact i love vegtarian food, these so called Hindu vegetarians have frekin clue how ignorant and stupid they are. Half the products they eat every day have animal by products in them introduced into them directly or indirectly.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • sam

      @Desi01:

      You have no idea whether this person is American. So enjoy your own words: uninformed prejudice, hypocrite, ignorant and a typical frog in the well a $$hole.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Appreciated

      @YUMBEEF.. You are really good at analyzing this issue. My full support for you. There are many reasons to people's beliefs. But for small issues like this it is always easy to forgive. I am a Vegetarian by choice. Once my self and other friend(who's a Brahmin) ordered veg puffs at a fast food store in New Jersey, instead we were served Chicken puffs. We realized it after few bites, so we complained to the staff. They served us veg puffs by saying sorry. That's all. So there are many Brahmins now a days who more liberal and are accepting the changes in cultures. It's always good to forgive for simple things. Many vegetarians will also consume the milk(filtered ...from Animals), butter etc.According to old Hindu tradition you should not even cross the ocean. We come here for good in everything. We have to use the system and support the system, but not exploit the system. Unfortunately we have to compromise. God knows everything.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  16. Prettygal

    The restaurant owner knew better–for God's sakes, he was smack dab in Edison, and had Indian customers on a regular basis. The owner should have ordered his workers to take all necessary precautions-separate utensils, separate pots, separate cutting boards.... I would prefer seperate kitchens. In India, you would have separate kitchens for vegetarian and non-veg.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • sam

      Sounds like you've never made a mistake in your life. How lucky for you.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  17. Prettygal

    I am a strict vegetarian. I sympathize with the claimants. I would do the same. I would also sue for emotional suffering.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  18. Devout Hindu

    I wonder what crap this CNN Reporter is dishing out by saying that Devout Hindus are those who do not kill or eat other creatures. There are so many Hindus who eat non vegetarian food. Yes, every Hindu is supposed to not eat Beef because Cow is considered holy and sacred by all Hindus but by making a remark that devout Hindus don't eat meat, she is actually questioning the faith and conscience of all those Hindus who eat Meat (all except Beef) and are still devout Hindus. Well, MONI BASU and Chelsea Bailey – Please research properly and see what the reality is before making such misleading statements.

    July 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Singh

      Hindus do eat Beef. Look at the Vedic scriptures. A Brahmin was initiated into the cult after sacrificing a cow. It is only due to Bhuddist influence that most Hindus stopped eating meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Kamesh

    I am Indian and I think this is retarded. It was a mistake, get over yourselves idiots!!

    July 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  20. Brahmin

    Well that is totally wrong interpretation of being vegetarian in Hinduism. A Hindu chooses to be a vegetarian not because he "does not want to inflict death on god's creations". The fact is, eating meat of animals causes the man to be more aggressive and increase his "needs" and "wants". Call it the hunters instinct or due to ingesting the hormones the animal secretes in its body that remain in the carcass. If a person wants to be closer to god, or conduct certain ceremonys (as a priest in a temple, for instance) he must hold his own body pure of such thoughts and "wants". Hence refrain from eating meat. It is analogous to a church father's celibacy. Why doesn't a father marry? is it because he thinks woman make his body impure or is it so that he wants to be closer to god with no earthly bonds?

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

      Women make your body impure? Lol..That is hilarious!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Kris

      Your body makes its own hormones... just so you know... it's not really effected by what it eats... sure, a vegitarian man's going to be a wimp because he doesn't get sufficient protein... which might make him less aggressive because he know's if he is aggressive he'll get it handed to him haha.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Kamesh

      @Kris: Agreed!!

      July 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Brahmin

      @kris, well you got that right about vegetarians not being aggressive.. But about hormones? Don't tell me you never heard the debate about the use of growth hormones in animals and how it is very bad for humans eating such meat. Your body makes hormones and they are essential for your well being. But add in a bunch more and see how that messes up your body. It is about maintaining a hormonal balance... just so you know!

      Also, meat is not the only way to get protein in.. or to maintain muscles.. google Dalip Singh Rana

      July 22, 2011 at 3:11 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.