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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. Lets all Think

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/07/18/intv.dengle.india.infanticide.cnn

    July 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Lets all Think

      The current Population of India in 2011 is estimated to be 1.21 billion.
      http://www.indiaonlinepages.com/population/india-current-population.html

      Must be producing at least some girls. Lets worry, when they get down to 300 million or so.

      Cheers!

      July 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  2. Prettygal

    The claimants are suing for the PRINCIPLE-–so no other vegetarian would have to suffer the same trauma in the future.It is not about the money. Believe me, as a vegetarian hindu myself, if that happened to me, I would feel like dying. Death would be better than eating meat.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • nimitta

      As my Jain friends have shown me, even someone like you, PrettyGal, causes untold death on a cosmic scale simply by eating vegetables, walking on the ground, drinking water, and even breathing. Since the Jains' view of karma is far more rigorous than that of mainstream Hindus today, by their standard your behavior is practically tantamount the restaurant's.

      On the other side, although I eat little meat I don't feel like dying when I do. I have a deep spiritual practice of yoga, meditation, and ethical behavior, but a different belief system than you and the plaintiffs in this case. As I said below, they have a right to sue, but a wise judge or jury will not go so far as to indulge their absurd fantasy that a trip to Haridwar is either a necessary remedy or a proportionate award for their suffering. As many other Hindus have commented, the idea that they need to go to the Ganga for absolution is out of the mainstream – simple forgiveness will do.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      My dear prettygal, you sound like an IDIOT. Please stop posting.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • nimitta

      Forgot to say this in regard to the Jains: one more reason the plaintiffs' claims should be heard but rejected is because they don't reflect a true understanding of karma. From the Buddha on, most Indian religions including most Hindus have accepted the fact that from time to time harm accrues from our actions (karma) without our having intended it or even been aware. The example I gave before was of tiny organisms that perish in the act of cultivating and harvesting vegetables. While many Jains have clung to this view and even filter their water and air, most others recognize that this is an extreme view, and that karmic consequences largely depend on ~intention~.

      Since the diners most certainly did not intend to ingest the flesh of other creatures, the fact that they did consume small amounts has no karmic significance apart from the harm the diners do to themselves by fretting, fuming, and experiencing guilt. They do far more harm to beings by engaging them in lawsuits than anyone has done to them, and the suffering that accrues from the lawsuit and the acrimony it has already brought is already inconceivably more vast than the tort they've claimed.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. Lets all Think

    Should we all be compensated for poor hygiene of a few people too?

    July 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, the next person with BO that gets on an elevator with me is so getting sued.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Lets all Think

    Their are plaenty of Hindus who cast away their infant baby girls.... so what can we say about that.. anyone

    July 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Rai

      Its a social problem which is magnified more by the media to apease morns like you. Yes it needs to be addressed but you can't have the whole society labeled in the same as as all americans can't be labeled as child molesters or killers (on behest of casey & Co). Period.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Lets all Think

    what is with everyone wanting something for their own stupid fault

    July 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  6. Lets all Think

    Waterman, I would not go to a restaurant that served dog if I only wanted to eat beef.

    Jews have certified kitchens for Seder maybe as Hindus you should only eat in restaurants that do not use any animal product.

    So if you don’t want to eat meat then you best not go to a restaurant that serves it.

    Waterman, I would not go to a restaurant that served dog if I only wanted to eat beef, what a stupid analogy.

    People that hide behind religion for ill will should be ashamed of themselves

    July 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • waterman

      If practically every restaurant served dog meat dishes along with non-dog meat in the place you lived, sure as as hell you would go to those restaurants. You would just request that you not be given anything with dog in it.

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

    Beyond friviolous lawsuits:

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: a move to true morality!!!

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity.

    The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and non-profits since there is there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  8. allforensic

    Ridiculous! do they realize plants are also ‘creatures of God’ as they have life too... if they are so sensitive harming God's creatures they should then starve to death...I’m from the same background and ashamed of these hypocrites.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Rai

      How about a mighty hypocrisy from your side fella? I mean do not drag others into your mess and If you have no sense of respect to life of fellow living creatures, at least let others have it.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  9. Prettygal

    These claimants have every right to sue. They were violated. The restaurant owner should have taken precautions. He is guilty of negligence and worse.

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

      Yes, every right to sue...but a wise judge or jury will not go so far as to indulge the plaintiffs' absurd fantasy that a trip to Haridwar is either a necessary remedy or a proportionate award for their suffering. As many Hindus have commented, the idea that they need to go to the Ganga for absolution is out of the mainstream – simple forgiveness will do.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Lee

    Tough! A mistake was made, so what? These guys are going WAY too far.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  11. Prettygal

    Some people are brought up in strict, orthodox, hindu families. You have no idea how strict some people take being vegetarian. My parents are strict vegetarian(no eggs, ) .... Once, we had orthodox hindu visitors. They cooked their own vegetarian food in the basement-they did not want my parents' cooking-even though my parents are pure vegetarian. Some people take their diets very seriously.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • allforensic

      yeah..if that's the case then why live in outside your holy land???

      July 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Rai

      So going outside you land means you forget your definition of humanity and principles or what?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  12. Lets all Think

    Well said by an intelligent man

    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."

    These people are obviously money grubbing scoundrels who only care about them selves,

    July 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  13. waterman

    It is really a problem if a vegetarian was given meat while being told it is veggi food. Just as it would be problematic to most in this country if they were mistakenly given a dog burger instead of a beef burger.

    In both the above cases, religion should not matter. But they are suing on religious grounds because that's the language the court understands, and they can maximize the penalty. Purifying business is bull, but that doesn't make giving meat (or dog or human) samosas okay.

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

      Again with the accidental ingestion of humans. You are on a roll. Or...you want someone on a roll.

      It's very simple to avoid accidentally being served something: don't eat in places where things you object to are also cooked. I would not patronize a place that sold dog meat, because I would not want to run the risk of ingesting something I'm trying to avoid. Strict vegetarians often know better than to eat somewhere where meat is also served, because contamination is possible.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • waterman

      How many "pure veg" restaurants are there? Almost none. This was and Indian restaurant, for heavens sake. These are Indians eating in a Indian restaurant. It would have the most veg options of almost any restaurant.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  14. Lets all Think

    There was no malicious intent, the owner apologized for the grievous mistake, I am even sure he gave them their money back.

    I would wager that there is cross contamination in the kitchen of a restaurant that serve veg and non veg. Any time you eat out you are in peril of eating something you did not intend to eat. If you want to be certain cook it for yourself at home.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  15. Lets all Think

    Can't fix stupid

    July 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  16. joe800

    ..if theyre so devout , why'd they leave India?..they should be close to the ganges at all times to protect their spirituality...

    July 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Rai

      So going outside you land means you forget your definition of humanity and principles or what? If you have no sense of respect to life of fellow living creatures, at least let others have it. Peace.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Anant

    I am a vegetarian and think that restaurant should pay for it as I also strongly believe that killing God's creatures and eating meat pollutes soul. Since this was an accident it should be Ok, but the restaurant should be taught a lesson and should pay the fines so that next time it is very sensitive to the feelings of Hindu vegetarians.

    Let me ask my fellow Americans, if you have a cow whose milk you took since your childhood and now someone kills the same cow and feeds you the meat, would you have a different opinion? Would you eat it, or would you not? Hindus make thi s concept universal and consider it a sin to eat cow's meat as it is respected as mother for obvious reasons(fed you with milk when you were little)

    July 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • joe800

      ...there are children living on the streets and girls are sold into slavery in India...please Hinduism is just another version of my invisible friend is better than yours...

      July 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Rai

      there are some mentally sick guys like those child molesters who just do not try to understand the perspective of situation at all. U is dragging others in your own mess of narrowing your spectrum of humanity. This is magnanimously painful and I can at least testify that to you from my side.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Phil

      There no way any meat serving restaurant can guarantee that any meat doesn’t touch the vegetables. If you truly want to avoid meat don't go to a restaurant that serves meat.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. sid

    as far as whether this act begets a lawsuit then yes, i think it does. If Mcdonalds can be sued over serving hot coffee, then this incident definitely deserves a lawsuit.
    Would i have sued? – No. I was raised to own my mistakes and be accountable for all my actions.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • sam

      McDonalds was sued over coffee in a ridiculous, frivilous manner. Just because it can happen doesn't mean it should. Are you actually saying that because one frivolous lawsuit was successful, that makes it reasonable to keep doing it?

      July 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  19. RE

    I am a vegetarian, but not for religious or animal rights reasons. I do it for my health. I'm a newcomer with only 2 years without meat. I realize my eating choices are a minority. I don't go to restaurants and demand meat free meals. It is a choice I make so I do my best not to put others out with my personal decisions. However, these people's beliefs are extremely different than mine. It is a religious act that they have practiced for generations. Americans may not understand it, but they need to be respected. BUT suing for a trip to do something they can achieve at their local house of worship is absolutely RIDICULOUS!

    July 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Giuseppe B

      It's not about YOU, jerky, stick to the issues.

      July 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  20. VM

    As a vegetarian, I understand their frustration. At least in an Indian restaurant it is expected that the people know the importance the vegetarians give to their food choice.

    For those readers who are giving a free suggestion to cook yourself:
    These same people will make fun of the vegetarians who go to a restaurant and cannot order anything because they suspect meat in it. When you are in a team you would have occasion where you need to go an eat outside. So request you to just respect the beliefs and not mock them.

    Now coming to the SIN part, I don't agree that there is any sin committed if the folks have repeatedly tried to make sure (as they claim) that the dish does not have meat and still ended up getting meat dish. Ask any learned one, if you have committed a mistake without your knowledge all just ask god for an whole hearted apology and you are done. There is no need for a dip in Ganga or to even go to a temple. Remember, God is everywhere and in everything is the ultimate belief of a Hindu.

    Regarding case –
    If the restaurant was really apologetic (and they mean it by heart), you get rid of any sin that you think you have committed, but first forgiving them. Kshama(forgiveness) is the first thing you would learn as part of any religion more importantly for Hindus.
    If the restaurant was not apologetic or they did not really mean apology by heart, then I would be angry and will try to teach them a lesson. I guess that is what these guys are trying to do (if their intentions are pure). Looking at the case, they are just asking for the amount of money to get a trip to India not a whole lot but big enough to teach a lesson. But even in such a case, I would use that money to donate to a charity that feeds poor rather than taking a trip to India.

    July 22, 2011 at 3:27 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.