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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. sureace

    Does anyone really know what these jokers might be eating behind closed doors?????

    July 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Rai

      If you have no sense of respect to life of fellow living creatures, at least let others have it. After all, isn't it all about human values? I mean this is dragging others in your own mess of narrowing your spectrum of humanity. This is magnanimously painful and I can atleast testify that to you from my side.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  2. matter of fact indian

    Just think of this – those who believe in God and are Vegi for belief (Not for health reasons)- if God wanted us to eat only plants and vegi – then why do we have incisors and canines, and not only molars and premolars as ungulates??? Give it a thought.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Hari

      Whosoever claims to be a vegetarian is a "facultative vegetarian" ... humans digestive system is evolutionarily designed for eating meat...

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

      why do you want to change or question anyone's belief system? Let people live their own way. Isnt that what we call a Hindu way of life – in other words, all paths to God philosophy.
      But if you dont eat meat, just be careful of what you eat. I think both parties committed mistakes here.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • snow

      Not really.. Human digestive system was not made to digest meat. It is a known fact that the system works extra hard to digest meat. That is why infants are not fed any meat broths before they are used to vegetable supplements, and kids are fed veggies before pieces of meat.
      .. but you would still argue that its wrong.. anyway why is this a science class when we are talking about law?

      July 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  3. sid

    its negligence on the part of the restaurant, when they specifically ordered for vegetarian meal.
    But by bringing a lawsuit against the restaurant, we are just trying to copy stupid Americans who sue for almost everything that is wrong in their life.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Hari

      Negligence on the part of the restaurant is acceptable, but, the people who are suing do not have any moral right to claim that they are "pure vegetarians" and they were traumatized by this experience. The claimants should not have entered a restaurant that also serves meat in the first place... What a BS of a case!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  4. Human

    Prettygal...I know pure veggie restaurants make onion pakoras made with mix off egg because they come very soft...so please avoid going to restaurants itself....it's happening in India too.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  5. sureace

    these so called 16 hindu's should be counter sued for bringing a frivolous law suit and wasting the court's time and resources....and they should serve time in the kitchen of the restaurant...

    July 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Giuseppe B

    Prettygal is a troll trying to rile you all up by acting ridiculous.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  7. Giuseppe B

    Can we please discuss the issues instead of name-calling and accusing one another of ignorance? Focus on the issues not the posters.

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

      That would be cool. btw, what does 'baphos' mean?

      July 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  8. JJV

    This is totally absurd. Asking for to go to Ganges for purification is absurd. Just because we believe something does not make others have to pay for it. Ganges is the one of the ugliest rivers in the world. They want to purify. They cant eat meat but they can get bathe in human excretions. This is called utilization of the system. God forbid the courts should not allow these kind of cases.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  9. EnClark

    I am in the US Military and have been serving this country for two years now. I have known and do know people who has served this country for fifteen to thirty years.... It feels good to come on CNN (or any news site) and hear/read, "Hey! We caught the bad guy!" However, when I read stuff like this, this makes me a bit angry. I know that not all Hindus are like the customers in this story (just based off of some of the comments on this story) and not all people are snobby, but come on! I (and other military members) DO NOT fight for your freedom to complain and sue a company over spilled milk..... Shesh people......

    July 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  10. Prettygal

    The claimants suffered greatly. They should also sue for emotional distress. It would be a terrible trauma. I sympathize.

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

      The claimants should not have entered a restaurant that also serves meat in the first place... Suing the place for their mistake is Pure Drama... a very poorly thought out scheme... and their trauma is fit only to be aired on reality television

      July 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  11. Human

    Prettygal...it seems like you never been into Indian restaurants that serves veg and non veg dishes and owned by "Indian Hindus"...if you did...you better go to India and drown in Ganges since there is no guarantee that you strictly ate veg dish.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  12. Prettygal

    I cook at home. I never eat out unless it is a PURE vegetarian restaurant. I don't trust the workers.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Hari

      Please answer the following
      1. Have you had a piece of cake anywhere in your life?
      2. Have you ever been to a place that serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare?
      3. Have you been to any of your friends' place, who is a non-vegetarian and have had vegetarian food there?
      4. Have you had french fries in any of the fast food places in US? Say in MacDs or Arbys or the like?

      If you have answered yes to any of the questions, you are contradicting your own thought that you are vegetarian.
      Thank you

      July 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  13. AJ

    This is what is wrong with our country. I am sure the restaurant did not do it on purpose. The judge should have thrown out the law suite. The ownere should appologize for the mistake and they should be on their way.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • waterman

      I am sure you would be fine if you were given dog meat, cat meat, or human meat by mistake. Just say sorry and all is fine.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • sam

      @ waterman – that's not even close to the same. Go stand in the corner until you develop logical thinking.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • waterman

      @AJ – I proved my point: it IS the same for veg to eat meat, as it is for you to eat a dog or a cat. Cannibals would not be able to understand your aversion to eating humans, and you cannot understand their aversion to eating meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  14. seriously?

    this is ridic - as an indian, im embarrassed that my own people are suing..our own people over something like this. It clearly wasn't intentional; itsjust making us look bad.

    And if they're that religious and spiritual, they wouldnt be seeking revenge. Forgiveness and not seeking vengeance are basic pillars of any faith.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  15. Hari

    Why did you go to a restaurant that served or cooks non-vegetarian food also? for all you know the veggie samosa might have been fried in the same oil in which a meat samosa was fried earlier in the day. Or may be the same cooking pot that cooks the meat was used for veggie stuff also. i guess the people who are suing the place are up to a very very poorly planned out scheme. What a disaster!

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

    Why do you people not understand... It is the way you are brought up. Some Jews are brought up with a Kosher diet. Some muslims have a special diet,(no pork, halal meat)... Jains who are orthodox do not eat any animal products... they do not even eat potatoes or carrots which grow under the ground. It is the way you are brought up.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • ndlily

      Yes, but you don't have the right to inflict "the way you were brought up" on everyone else. It is your personal belief system. KEEP IT PERSONAL!

      July 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      This is America, who cares about what some baphos do in India, if you accidentally get the wrong dish the restaurant should apologize and take the wrong dish away & replace with the correct dish. That's it, that's all you get, if you don't like it, then don't go out to eat, we don't have to do things your bapho way here.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  17. gorgon

    Any restaurant named "Express" is bound to make mistakes. Get over it. Next time, make your food at home if you're so intolerant of people making mistakes.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  18. jim

    If they take a dip in the Ganges to purify their souls, they do so at the peril of their bodies. It is extremely polluted!

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

    The judge should be disbarred.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  20. AC

    Send them back on a one-way ticket.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:14 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.