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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. Nick Naranja

    I have some vegetarian friends and I would feel awful if I accidently served them meat. It would be like going to mcdonalds and getting a dog cheeseburger and kitty cat nuggets. I imagine if you were served cat and dog you would sue as well.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • matter of fact indian

      fully faltoo logic....
      Its a mistake vs consciously eating pets – cannot even compare them....

      July 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      You make no sense

      July 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • waterman

      You are absolutely right. Let all the a nonvegetarians eat a dog burger or a human burger accidentally, when they thought they were eating cow or pig. Then see how "minor" this matter is.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • sam

      @waterman – dude, where the h3ll have you been eating that that might happen?? And why so obsessed with human burgers? Should someone be checking your basement?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • waterman

      @sam – the point not that it is likely to happen or not. The point is that IF that were to happen (you eating a dog or human burger by mistake), would it be a serious matter to you or not? Would you accept an apology only?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • sam

      @waterman – if it was an accident, yes, an apology would suffice. I took it on myself to go somewhere that sold that type of thing and opened myself to the risk.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Jalapenos

    A $10 off coupon for the next visit seems more logical.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  3. Prettygal

    Being Indian, the owner should have known better. He should have taken all necessary precautions- to see that there was no cross-contamination of the pure vegetarian dishes. There should be separate pots, separate utensils, separate cutting boards. I would insist the workers wash their hands before touching the vegetarian items.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Prettygal

      You may be right, in that they should have known better. However, we all make mistakes from time to time.

      And... it certainly doesn't warrant flying 16, or however many, people to India to 'cleanse their souls' in the Ganges. (IMHO).

      Regards,

      Peace...

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

      How many times are you going to post the same thing? I just want to keep a tally.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  4. sureace

    Bottom line is they are all looking for free round trip tickets to India (business class maybe)....and the only thing you can cleanse in the ganges is the ganges itself.....Amen!!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  5. J. Underscore

    Being served the wrong food item at a restaurant is a risk for all. The restaurant should be responsible for replacing or refunding the food. Upholding one's own religious beliefs is a personal responsibility.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Prettygal

    As a pure vegetarian, I would rather DIE than eat meat.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • D

      ...for $35 a plate, so would I. Did I read that correctly? –$35/plate?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Me2

      I would rather you die too.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • matter of fact indian

      Really?
      Easier said than done.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      I'm speechless.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Honestly!

      LMBO! This is rather extreme because I am a vegan and if I were stuck somewhere where eating meat meant the difference between life and death....please pass the steak!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Anil

      Prettygal, I am an Indian and i do understand the sincerity with which many of us follow vegetarianism. But I had few questions looming in my mind when I saw your reply. I agree you maybe willing to die rather than eat meat.
      1) But what if you ate meat unknowingly ?
      2) What if you never knew about it(Even after your death) ?

      If you are saying all that is sin, here are some pointers that you probably are a sinner for sure.

      Have you ever eaten any food not cooked by you ? If an Indian restaurant used the same wok to cook your veggie fried rice after they made a chicken fried rice for a previous customer, are you sure there is not even a spec of left over ? I am pretty sure a busy restaurant won't wash their frying wok between every customer. Have you had bajji's/pakodas etc ? are you sure, that oil was not used for frying chicken before ?

      Best of all, have you ever had "EggPlant" ? :). I think i don't need to explain more :).

      I am not saying one shouldn't practice some faith. But understand the reason why you practice that. I believe the real reason for vegetarianism in India is Selflessness through Non-Violence. Not hurting other living creatures, trying to protect nature, trying to keep onself from the selfish deed of using other life forms for ones existence especially when there are alternatives. When the kings in our history kills enemies in the name of kshtriya dharma, I dont understand why they would DIE because they ate meat by accident.

      "Law was made for men, men were not made for law". In short, vegetarian-ism is a way of practicing selflessness. It is just one of the ways to practice being kind to the fellow beings. By suing the restaurant which ACCIDENTALLY served meat, they have proved that their heart is impure ! And don't you tell me that an Indian restaurant would serve meat to a vegetarian on purpose. Now their heart is impure, but I am pretty sure their bodies are too. If someone USES ones own religion to make money, I am sure he would have sinned otherwise. I am pretty sure they will be answerable to their God for closing a business, there by many people loosing their jobs, their familes driven to despair.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Dee

    these people just want a trip to India.If they are so clean and worried about being religious then they should not even eat in a restaurant that carries both veg and non-veg food. Do you think thy don't go to Taco Bell or McDonalds to eat stuff? these places also carry meat. I have so many times returned food to Taco bell for not giving me food with beans. Also if they were pure vegetarian they should have figured out just by the smell or just by breaking the samosas in very 1st bite? Total waste of time and money. I hate when people try to find ways to make money. That money or trip will never last any long.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  8. Andy

    Fact based study shows that Hinduism is not a monolithic religion from a single prophet. It’s loosely bound philosophical framework founded by Aryans (who migrated to India from present Germany area) and evolved over centuries. There are multiple independent religions under Hinduism, like Buddhism and Jainism with different customs and beliefs. Hinduism is a liberal religion in that way.

    Some Hindus don’t eat egg or meat products and some do – but food habit doesn’t make one more or less Hindu. It’s an individual choice without any religious dictatorship.

    Many US laws, such as religious freedom, immigration for human rights etc. were created to promote human values and freedom, but were not implemented bullet proof enough to prevent abuse and exploitation.

    A progressive and moderate Hindu, Muslim or Jew is not a problem in any society, but a radical and extreme manifestation of anything leads to rift and collision. In an already problem stricken world, people with extreme religious beliefs should stay in their home country/community to reduce pain to others. And laws should protect moderate citizens from such extremes.
    Govt. really needs to review these laws objectively and close the holes to minimize the potential extremities and abuse.

    There’s something in our system that does the opposite. Per Time magazine, many progressive Iraqis who sacrificed their life and family to help US mission are denied protection in the US. But post 9/11, FBI foiled over 500 terrorist attempts involving religious fundamentalists – all naturalized US citizens. So the Hindu, Muslim or the Jew as a whole is not the problem, but which Hindu, which Muslim and which Jew is here is the root cause of problem. And somehow our system keeps admitting bad apples which keep ruining the entire basket.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      what does your middle school history lesson have to do with these particular baphos who are whining about eating a bit of meat

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

    To giuseppe: It is not racism or caste. It is the way you are brought up. It is like keeping a Kosher diet.

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

      why do you think there is a reply link?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  10. Human

    They are taking advantage of US judiciary, I am Hindu I eat everything. as per Hindu "Puranas" there were many hard core devotees who ate all kind of meat and they were trying to offer same meat they used to consume....God is one but believes are many...that's the problem

    July 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Bleeech

    Considering it was an Indian restaurant, they're probably no strangers to having patrons suing them.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  12. Shiva

    For you Americans, If you dont understand hindu religion, It is better to shut up and make unnecessary comments. The only reason we are here is because, You guys are so stupid and Illiterates so stop complaining that Indians are coming and taking your jobs.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Phil

      Yes, we understand Hindu religion, it is primitive and racist.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • sam

      You're an arrogant fool, and it's a shame you're doing it under such a revered name.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Honestly!

      Wow Shiva. Think before you type....please?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  13. foodi

    If they were such devout hindus, who seem that they abide by very strict teachings, perhaps they should have avoided restaurants that serve meat all together, just so that they were sure they were not at any risk of consuming any type of meat or meat byproducts 🙂

    July 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  14. M3NTA7

    It said they were 'complicit'. Well, that would mean that they were aware and chose to eat meat, but they didn't chose, in fact, they didn't know. Once they found out, they stopped eating the meat. Therefore, they do not need to cleanse their souls. Does this logic make sense?

    July 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  15. Shiva

    Idiots

    July 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Honestly!

      🙂 what makes you different from the other comment responders here? Get a grip on your emotions. If you can't handle other people's opinions, you should stick to reading the articles and leave the "discussions" to the people who can handle it. 😉

      July 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  16. Phil

    If you are that pure of a vegetarian, you should not be visiting non vegetarian restaurants. You should cook your food at home…

    July 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  17. sureace

    Wonder what these jokers would have done if a restaurant in India served them meat by mistake....Sue???? hell no, its only in America they can pull crap like that....Man, what a country!!!!!!!!God Bless America

    July 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  18. amrithraj

    NOTE: NOTE:>>> There are Hindus who eat meat including Beef!! Indian state – Kerala 95% population are non-veg, 90% of the Kerala Hindus (including upper class Brahmins) eat non-veg. Kerala Hindus do eat -Chicken, Beef, sea food etc... I'm one of them .. Please note that India is a large country.. even Indians.. particularly in North Indians (where u find more Hindus are vegetarian – 95%) don't know whats in south or North -east.. they are totally ignorant. It is similar to say.. Bollywood alone doesn't represent India... India has Bollywood (Hindi), Kollywood (tamil), Tollywood (telgu), Mollywood (Malayalam).. so many film producing industry. Tollywood produces more Films than Bollywood. So for both Indians and Outsiders please know more about India..before u comment..

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

      I am not sure where you are going with this, explaining the bogus Indian film industry, but I agree that the bunch who are filing law suit are a bunch of idiots and this is sheer stupidity. To eat or not to eat meat is an individual choice and it has nothing to do with Hinduism.These guys just want to make money and get free flights to India.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  19. MikeHuntEsq

    In order to receive compensation, they should be required to prove damages. If they want reimbursement to cleanse their souls, they must first prove that their souls have been tarnished, which means they must first prove the existence of whatever it is that they mean by 'soul'.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Giuseppe B

    These baphos are just trying to get something for nothing. Take your caste racism back to India on your own rupee, and please don't come back.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Just so that you know

      Most hindus I think would not agree with what these 16 are doing. Relax. Not all hindus believe in caste either. Your comment makes you like a moron. As for going back to India, these 16 probably should. All other hindus, no. The most educated people in the US are Indians so probably not a good thing for them to go back.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      I agree with you brah, I didn't say anything about "all hindus" just these particular baphos.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:20 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.