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. commonman01

    What ! another stupid decision by our court justices ? Is it any surprise ? Is there any medical proof of harm ? Is there any scientific proof that the water of any river will take away meat consumption? How about a couple of free meals to make up for the error like any normal resturant ....... which is suitable and equal remedy for the harm done! This country is more an more stupid!

    July 24, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • Spydyee

      How about no way! If it had been my kid with food allergies I would have huge hospital bills and/or funeral bills. We often eat in Indian restaurants due to his allergies to meat products. Just because the harm is spiritual in these people does not mean that the negligence is not real. The restaurant employees were negligent becasue the group specifically asked for a veg food with no meat which is pretty much how I order foods for my kid. If they had done to my kid what they did to these people I would have had huge medical bills for which I would hope that the court would find them responsible for paying. The fact that the damage to these people is spiritual not physical does not reduce the level of negligence by the employees of the restaurant. After 20+ years in the Hospitality industry, 15 of which was in management, I can tell you that this level of negligence is unacceptable

      July 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Charles

      What You keep failing to realize is that in an allergy situation you would have actual, provable damages. "Spiritual harm" is not an actual damage. They are not out any money what-so-ever. They did not have to go to the hospital. If something like this happened to you, would you go home and and call your lawyer, or head straight for the hospital? If these people really believed it was that important to cleanse their souls we would be reading about how they were suing to be reimbursed for the trip they already had to take. If it's really important, you're not going to wait to do it until you win the lawsuit to do it. A person's religious beliefs and convictions are their own.

      Also, if your son does have that serious of an allergy to food, you're a fool if you let him eat anything you haven't prepared yourself. There is absolutely no other way of making sure he doesn't get something he's not supposed to.

      July 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  2. Rajat Gupta

    Yah sure it should be this simple right. Violate a person's food reservations and offer them ganga jal in lieu of that violation.

    July 24, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  3. VMark

    dont vegetables..plant..leaves have life? how is it ok to eat that and not animals?

    July 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  4. Anu

    This is not the first time its happening,they usually screw up the orders a lot for vegetarians and insists its pure veg

    July 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  5. zezebapa

    When you are catering to public, you should abide by laws of the land, including religious. in this case, Moghul's owners and employees are not strange to HINDU customs. They better learn good customer practices like other restaurants.

    July 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  6. Nashoba

    I get so tired of other cultures coming to America (the melting pot of the world) and pushing their religions to the max when it dont go their way! When I go in a store and see a woman with her face covered, I think "What would the store owner or manager think if I covered MY face?" I would be tackled in a heart beat, arrested, and tri'ed for terroism! This isn't some third world country, It's America! LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT! THERE'S A PLANE OR BOAT LEAVING EVERY MINUTE! Just sayin'!

    July 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • You Leave

      If you don't like America the way it is that why are you not on the boat. Everone has the option of leaving since we all came from somewhere

      July 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • american

      you truly deserve to have your face covered and put on a boat. Just saying.

      July 24, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  7. mjf

    Anyone who is a vegetarian should realize that if they patronize a non-vegetarian restaurant there is every chance that either accidentaly or on purpose some meat or meat product is very likely to be in their dinner. I think that in this case every time they go to such a restaurant they should do some kind of purification. I do not know anything about their their beliefs within Hinduism, but a trip to the Ganges river for eating a little meat is rather extreme.

    July 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Rajat Gupta

      If you say you know nothing about their religious beliefs, I wonder why you should make a comment!!

      July 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  8. Victorio Lopez

    I hate to burst any vegetarians bubble, but there is a certain unremovable amount of animal matter (from bugs and dead vermin) that inherently exists in all grain products. Hell, even roots and fruits will come with little critters that can't all be removed.

    I applaud those who don't eat meat as it has a tremendous environmental benefit, but just realize that if eating another animal offends you spiritually, well, you do it all the time. They are just ground up in the flour and you can't tell.

    July 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Richard S Kaiser

    OceanLight writes; "Imaginations created for self by the self saves no one. Hindus should read God's Word, the Bible." On July 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Hello OceanLight,
    I fail to see your Predacious Nature In Slandering One's Imagination whereupon You Yourself Write Fastidiously and Imaginatively Toward Demoting and Premonitionizing. Ergo The "Saving" Grace of GOD is Glorified Via HIS Children, the Gods and Goddesses that GOD Did Manifest Before this Earth was even FORMED! Our Personal Lamentations Do Imbibe Toward and Upon Otherly Disparaged Souls An Individualized Singularness That Depends souly Upon An Imperfection of One's Own WORD.

    July 23, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • southsidegirl


      July 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  10. OceanLight

    Imaginations created for self by the self saves no one. Hindus should read God's Word, the Bible.

    July 23, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • BillieK

      Which version of the bible? The catholic church version or the lutheran church or others???

      July 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Kevin Wright

      What makes your religion so special that it allows you to look down on followers of other religions.

      July 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  11. OceanLight

    Hindus need to trust in Jesus alone for remission of sins and for salvation.

    July 23, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • BillieK

      Well, Jesus himself was open to all religions and the basic goodness of man. (For instance, he was himself born a jew and according to at least one popular theory during his "formative" years, he had visited India and been a devotee of Lord Krishna.) Dear chid, you should learn from the Great Master's experiences and make them your own.

      July 23, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Kevin Wright

      Christians need to trust in FSM and not their false god.

      July 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  12. Sin

    The only sin related to food is "Gluttony", if every being can wow not to commit this sin, this world would be a healthier place...

    July 23, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  13. 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 23, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  14. hahahah

    blame it on al qaeda

    July 23, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  15. hahahah

    stupid idiots. i got a big mac they can suck on.

    July 23, 2011 at 6:19 am |
    • BillieK

      Yeah yeah, that's a very intelligent response from you. Thanks for contributing to this article via your enlightening comments.

      July 23, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • southsidegirl

      apoo: "tell me again please, what is the wonderful flavor in these strange nuggets? they are most delicious!"

      July 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  16. Goodservice

    Indian business establishments lack good customer service. About time they follow the rules and customs of the US and leave behind their third world mentality. Hopefully this lawsuit and more will ensure that the Desi businessmen do business like they are in the US.

    July 23, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  17. mullah nasiruddin

    It is my suspecion that the restaurant was owned by a pakistani and the act was deliberate. make them pay

    July 23, 2011 at 4:57 am |
  18. Fatty Popo

    looks like these folk just want a free ticket back home for a holiday

    July 23, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • Nashoba

      I think the Hindu Bros should take care of their Hindu bros and send them back home! I think they should ALL go back home if they can't live the American life that they chose when they came over here to live. This isn't India.... IT'S AMERICA!!! DEAL WITH IT AND SUCK IT UP! IF YOU DON'T LIKE MEAT... STAY HOME AND COOK FOR YOURSELVES!

      July 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Wiggles

    Hindus are great people. Bobby Jindal, and all of these guys up here. If the left desperately needs to import brown foreigners, then let's get rid of the mexicans and bring in some Indians.

    July 23, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • BillieK

      I think, colored people (Mexicans, Indians, Chinese, Africans) are going to take over the US. Your kids and grandkids themselves will marry into these cultures and will no longer be considered "white" (or a sickly pale hue, as most would say). So you better get used to see brown people around you – just like the people of the various indigenous American Indian tribes did when they started seeing your ancestors... It's truly a kick in the nuts isn't it, when history comes back around...

      July 23, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  20. Ravi

    Pradip 'Peter' Khotari is himself a buisinessman (Quick Travel, Indo AMerican Funeral Home, etc...)and of course he will say anything to protect businesses and buisinessmen !!!!!!!!!!

    July 23, 2011 at 2:52 am |
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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.