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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. mickey1313

    Differance, serving dog, is ILLIGAL. Serving meat to a vegan IS NOT ILLIGAL.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • horseyone

      Mickey1313
      Please learn to spell!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Rob

      i wish 'text yelling' with wrong spelling was illegal tho.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • IronDitka

      Not its not illegal... it maybe in Taiwan. Not in the US. Stop lying you idiot. You should be served dog meat just for that.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • ryan

      It's "legal" to do a lot of things, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's ethical, right, or OK. What can possibly be more annoying than someone who complains about other people's personal beliefs. Go find another country to live in of you are so intolerant.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • mickey1313

      first off, sorry for misspelling word when im typeing in a minimized window, while doing my real work (with the spell checker) second off, to serve dog in a restraunt is concitered (sub standard cuts of meat, and your restraunt will be closed down, my fav chiniese restraunt was closed for this reason, and so i did probibly have/enjoy dog.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  2. Kashmir

    Aw, screw them, and the sacred cow they rode in on.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Paki

      ya screw the cows.. let's eat bacon and blow something up.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Sunil Bhai

      मारा को तुमारा माँ का समाने,. ठुम तुमारा माँ को चूठेका गनुद पाक्की चूतिया

      July 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Brian

      Sunil Bhai ...go ahead and use your Hindi chicken scratch to hide your pathetic words....your impotent threats are as futile as your attempts to remove the curry stink from your body

      July 22, 2011 at 4:02 am |
  3. mickey1313

    this is crap, the seporation of chruch and state, clearly means that they are not lible for thers "magical beliefs" and if they could prove a soul, and prove it is "dirty" that would be one thing. But to pay for them to have a vacation to the motherland is absurd. All thiests are fools.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Erm

      Separation.
      And this has nothing to do with separation of church and state since it's a PRIVATE restaurant and not a gov't run restaurant!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • ryan

      I do not believe in organized religion or god either, but you are the one who sounds like the fool. Your comments are no more than incoherent rants!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  4. lavakava

    i can guarantee that almost all of you people who are surprised that hindus are suing the restaurant would do the same if you found out that your local burger king served you doggie burger instead of beef patties. bwahahahaha

    July 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • JimmyJones

      Hmmm, you seem to have this unhealthy fixation with dog meat. I suggest 20 CC's of thorazine and a baretta.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Rocktex

      no, but, I'd have them shut down by McDonalds

      July 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  5. CynicalTim

    The article make sme hungry for Ruth's Chriss or Morton's

    July 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • JimmyJones

      Ohhhhh yes. Definately!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  6. lavakava

    hey white boys/gals,

    i know beef is awesome...i eat a lot of it. but you know what is more awesome? dog meat. when i was in china, i had dog steak...it was much higher in protein, and lesser in fat. you hypocrites should try that...yum.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • really?

      you're a racist so we don't really care what you think

      July 21, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • JimmyJones

      Hate hate hate, thats all you have in you. Try some lovin' darlin'.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • CynicalTim

      Woof! Woof!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • CynicalTim

      Tastes like chicken!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Pakistani

      Why do you Hindoos raep children

      July 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • wwsd

      . I bet watu kama wewe kula kitu chochote, Sisi tayari najua wewe kufanya kitu chochote. .

      July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • mickey1313

      if it were not illigal in the US I would, meat is meat.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Rocktex

      that's why it's still considered '3rd world'

      July 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Raj

      @Pakistani – First learn to spell right. Don't blame you, your country is the dumps full of uneducated morons.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  7. Arijit

    The issues here are (a) whether they were harmed, and (b)whether their proposed solution is the only remedy.

    For (a) Really Orthodox Hindu's don't eat out- Hindu vegetarianism is like keeping kosher. Vegetarian food has to be cooked and eaten with separate utensils. As for (b), it's not written in Hindu scriptures, and it's not common custom, to return to India to purify yourself in the Ganges. I can't think of any situation this has ever come up as a solution, where there wasn't a lawsuit involved.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • mickey1313

      not to mention, you must prove wrong doing, aka damage to the "soul". Since they can provide no evidance in our SECULAR court system, then it is ludicrous for them to be able to sue. I would counter sue for defimation if they win this.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  8. T

    They should take the money from this lawsuit and provide free treatment for this obvious delusion about food and religion. Do you really believe there is a magic spirit in the sky that oversees all the people on the planet and is concerned about what food you eat? Not only is that capricious but it is egocentric and arrogant.

    You are on your own. The only choice you have is to stay stupid or gain knowledge. It is entirely up to you

    July 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • CynicalTim

      This is why Christianity is superior. In Acts, God told Peter that because of Jesus' death and Gods grace, the dietary laws no longer applied. He said in Acts, "Arise Peter Kill and Eat".

      July 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • wacky632

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6I9yXlJ4t4&w=640&h=360]

      July 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • T

      Aren't these the same people who "Honor" kill their daughters and sisters because they fall in love with the wrong "type" of person. And they think that eating the wrong food will get them in trouble?

      Allow me to let you in on a little secret. No God worth worshiping would ever allow a person who kills his own daughter or sister into a 'Heaven" type place. So if you agree with Honor killings, you might want to just go ahead and order the steak......

      July 22, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • eastwest

      Time: people who think they or their religion is superior needs to grow up. One who understands the real religion never feel so!!

      July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  9. really?

    If it really is that big of a deal if you eat even the smallest amount of meat then you should not eat at restaurants...ever. Food is a necessity, but restaurants are a luxury. Especially in the US you can easily find vegan/vegetarian friendly food at practically ever supermarket. And don't give me this "I'm too busy to cook" crap. I mean if you really think it puts your soul in danger to eat the wrong kind of food, then why would you trust someone else with it? If you go to any restaurant that has meat in it there is always the possibility that some miniscule amount of meat could accidentally get into a vegetarian dish and be consumed without anyone ever knowing it. So if you're so worried about it then you should never trust food made by some stranger in a kitchen that you can't even watch during the preparation.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Hindu

      May be you don't have self respect and values. There are people on earth who have values and beliefs. You are a dumb ignorant fool. Next time you go to a restaurant hope they will serve you a dead rat!!! I bet you would eat it cause you don't have values!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • really?

      @hindu – I notice you didn't address any of the points I made but just resorted to name calling. How are you claiming to have values when all you do is call people names? So answer the question I asked above, why would you trust something that is so important to someone you don't even know and can't even watch prepare the food?

      July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Brian

      really?...your point is valid and intelligent...I totally agree.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Xugos

      I agree. I'm a muslim, and I've been accidentally served pork numerous times. So what? I respect their beliefs, but if it's SUCH a big deal, just don't eat out.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Hindu

      That would be a lame suggestion for asking someone not to go to restaurant if you are a veggie. If you don't trust people you cannot live in todays world. If you keep questioning yourself what is going on behind you it is hard to survive!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Pani

      I am strictly vegetarian and yes, I never eat out. Never had even Pizza as some chees has fish enzymes. But I have a question about trusting strangers cooking. Would you eat and not complain say the waiter or cook spits on your burger in the kitchen and gives you or say drops it in the trash by mistake and picks it up and serves you. Really?

      March 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  10. NA

    If the restauranteurs knew about the customers dietary restrictions (whatever the reasons for those restrictions), and guaranteed that their customers' needs would be met, then they are 100% culpable.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • CynicalTim

      Right, they owe them their money back or a free meal. They don't owe them anything because ther religious convictions were violated. They have chosen to be offended.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Raj

      Replace the meat story with peanuts served to a person who asked if a dish had peanuts and was told no. A free meal or money back, right ? Why don't people understand that Religious beliefs are very important to some people in the world. And its not just for Hindus – Jews, Muslims, Buddhists – name them. A free meal or refund is okay to break someone's beliefs ?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  11. chris

    Why would anyone want beef samosas? It makes about as much sense as a beef spring roll.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  12. Tom

    What????Hell. good idea for a nice vacation. (this wasn't a beef steak, I think it might have been buffalo. You playing me?)

    July 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  13. agavemike

    This case contradicts itself. To admit sin is to admit liability. If the liability falls on the owner of the restaurant, then the patrons of the restaurant have not sinned. If the sin falls on the patrons and not the owner, then the owner has no liability.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • a hilburn

      what a smart person you are! i never would have looked at it this way!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Raj

      Logic does not work for everything. If I serve you beef during your Lent and you eat it inknowingly, who sinned and who is liable ? Not me. I am liable but I have not sinned because I am not a Christian.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Raj

      "Unknowingly".

      July 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  14. JimmyJones

    What, why, huh??? DEPORT!

    July 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  15. Pat Hughes

    They should consider themselves lucky the samosas were not made from spam or solyent green

    July 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  16. moveon

    Maybe they should go back to India if they want to have a beef free life.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • jay wright

      What does eating beef have anything to do with being American.? They were picking up food from an Indian resturant, they weren't eating at Mcdonalds.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • blessedgeek

      There are millions of non-Hindus who do not eat meat. To many, eating meat is as serious a crime as aborting the life of an unborn baby.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • american

      nice to see you spew hate judith...which other ethnic group do you hate? let all the hate out you xenophobe

      July 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • LeslieS

      @Judith...have you ever read anything about the McDonald's Lawsuit? That poor woman has been wrongly vilified for years.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald%27s_Restaurants

      July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Frank R.

      Using that logic, where should the rest of non-Indian vegetarian/vegan Americans go? Back to their respective countries? Furthermore, what do they do if that country is filled with mostly meat-eaters? Do they weak political asylum some other country predominantly occupied by vegetarians...like India? Genius, moveon!! All American vegetarians and vegans must be relocated to India. Thank you, move on! You must seek employment at the UN or something. Your humanitarian approach and solid logic should not be wasted!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • eastwest

      go back to europe or africa lol native indains want to follow their traditions here!!

      July 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  17. wacky632

    As a muslim pakistani i know how easily it is to put an entire culture/religion on trail for the actions of a few who often have no concept of their own religion. And hence I find it appalling the people would attack Hinduism and its adherent for the actions of a few ignorant ppl who happen to associated with the religion. This is issue has nothing to do with religious beliefs and has everything to do with profiteering. I know many hindus/mulims/jews who have had this issue of mistakenly consuming food which is unlawful in their religion in restaurants and after bringing forth the issue to the restaurant they all where given a sincere apology and where given gift certificates etc to compensate for the issue, and those who wanted to cleanse themselves simply went to their local place of worship. These ppl simply saw a way to profiteer from a mistake and hence should be looked as immoral/unethical individuals not immoral unethical hindu individuals... the religious tag should be left out of the discussion...

    July 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • wacky632

      Now if the restaurant was arrogant and did not show respect and offered no reasonable compensation to these individuals then I can understand teaching the restaurant a lesson..

      July 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • judith

      If they are that picky (ha ha) let them stay home and fix their own food....

      July 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • BR

      Yes indeed. Sad, but these people are willing to have all their co-religionists labeled in order to cater to their own avarice.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Greg

      Wacky632, several of the comments I have read so far are reprehensible. I hit the "Report Abuse" button several times. It seems "some people" are incapable of separating the actions of individuals from their entire communities. These same people don't question their race because of the actions of people like that Anthony woman.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  18. Desi guy

    Mogul should learn a lesson that customers are like gods and good treatment should be given to them. I am with the people who are suing the Mogul. This is a good message to all the resturants on Oak Tree road.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Brian

      Desi guy...customers are like Gods?....sounds like your butt has never woked retail....I have some news for you guy...the customer is always right rule is the worst thing a business can do...as people are naturally stupid and if you give them free reign over your business as you feel they can do no wrong you fail to qualify them and protect them from themselves and fail to protect your business.....seen it done.... you end up with dead customers and a vacant building...

      July 22, 2011 at 4:21 am |
  19. ssrao

    If you are a vegetarian, especially due to religious reasons, and you have been wrongly fed and ate meat, no one else can understand that extreme feeling of frustration, and helplessness and the guilt they will carry (of eating the meat) for the rest of their lives. If nothing else, at least sympathize with those people. No amount of money can make them forget it.
    Its good the issue gets highlighted because of the suit, and more awareness and hopefully more careful about it.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • judith

      I repeat,,,, make your own food at home and stay the heck out of restaurants!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • BR

      It can definitely be very upsetting, but one suspects this particular gang is trying to get a free trip to India.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • James G

      There not damn for eating meat...they wont be coming back as a cow in their next life. Lets stop the nonsense and move on with reason and reality.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • really?

      Seriously, if it is that big of a deal then why are you trusting some total stranger with it? Food is a necessity, but restaurants are a luxury. You can't even see the guy in the restaurant make it in most of them so why are you trusting them with something that you say is sooooooo important?

      July 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Leo

      You know, I'm usually very sympathetic to people. I was vegetarian for a year and a half. Many of my friends are vegetarian. I belong to a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and have friends of all religions. I have Jewish and Muslim friends who keep the dietary laws. I have Hindu friends who are strict vegetarians. Two of my friends are strict vegans.

      I like steak. Buffalo, cow, deer. Poultry. Mmm... tasty rabbit stew. Whatever. But if my veggie friends are coming over, I can make an incredible vegan feast. Or I'll keep a simple meat dish separate from everything else, so that if someone on the guest list wants meat, they can add a simple chicken cutlet to the rest of their dinner. It's simple.

      HOWEVER... as much as I respect my friends' dietary beliefs, if they want to be 100% sure of what they're eating, they need to cook it themselves or only eat food prepared by people they personally trust. A restaurant doesn't care about your emotional connections to poultry, or your aversion to pig flesh. If you want to be sure of your food, prepare it yourself. Same thing for allergies. End of story.

      This lawsuit is profiteering, and it's not what the religion teaches.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  20. omega

    Ironic isnt it. They need to take a dip in one of the worlds most polluted rivers inorder to clense their souls.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Rob

      Its a fast flowing fresh water river genius! ..

      July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Brian

      Rob..The river in question is filled with dead animals, heavy metals, naturally occuring aresnic and more bacteria then a million septic tanks...So yes it is ironic to cleanse ones soul in it.......like refreshing your breath by licking a urinal clean at a truck stop...

      July 22, 2011 at 4:14 am |
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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.