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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. MG

    I'm a Hindu and I'm appalled at such hypocrisy!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  2. gman21

    Hindus can kill innocent baby girls! Kill girls for falling in love in the name of saving family name. Kill women for dowry. Lynch low caste people. None of them call for cleansing their souls. Stop abusing American society.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • baskarG

      Perverse argument I'm afraid. It is not the case here that those who killed girls, wives and anyone else you have mentioned ate the "meat" samosas in Edison NJ. By your logic, you by virtue of being an American should be tried for war crimes in assorted parts of the world. Stop misrepresenting American society which thankfully has a more textured view of the world than you.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • Niloy

      please advise where in the hindu religious text does it say or require what you accuse hindus of committing? or just because a very small minority has committed such crimes, you label the entire population of committing such a crime?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  3. Buzz

    What will you have done if you had ordered for Meat and you had been served human meet? Will you not have gone to the court? I thought in America people need to get what they pay for else you will be taken to the court be hindu,catholic,Muslim......So this was just a common news. Respect people and their wishes

    July 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Mbane

      It's one thing to respect people's wishes. it's another to give them whatever the heck they want. Purify their souls? Really? And how come they didn't notice they were eating meat? The court award them a trip to India but not a return trip. Leave them there so their souls can be pure everyday of the week.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • How R u?

      SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE! ITS MADE OUT OF PEOPLE!!!! NOOOOO!!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • huff

      No. Clearly, Buzz, you know nothing about the American legal system. You do not get to sue if you don't get exactly what you want, unless you are a greedy individual who happens to beat the system, like the woman who sued McDonald's because she had hot coffee.
      Frivolous and inane lawsuits like this cost ALL of us in the long run.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Yes, but you sue over the law, not your wishs.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • kevin

      If you don't get what you ordered you take it back and get your money back and perhaps never visit that establishment again. You don't take them to court! That's just ignorant! Are you telling me this is the only sin these people have committed and now they must go to India? This is ridiculous.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  4. C-Man

    Agree-stay home or be sure where you are going to feed your face. Wonder how the cow feels about it as it floats down the river. Wouldn't drink or even stand close to the water. The breeze alone could kill ya. But what do U expect from a country that lets U sue when U drop yuour coffee?

    July 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  5. Hindu

    Why the faq is CNN not printing my damn comments?!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  6. Fiona

    I suspect the "mistake" was someone playing a bad trick on this group. I'm a vegetarian for philosophical and ethical reasons, and I've had people lie to me about food being free of meat. I've had hostesses place meat in front of me (and nothing else to eat), even though they knew I was vegetarian. People get weird and aggressive when you quietly say that you don't partake. I say good for the litigants for pushing the suit. It is true that they are abusing the tenets of Hindism (the comment about forgiveness is correct), but anyone who is serious about being vegetarian will tell you that we need to be taken seriously. Sneaking meat to a non-meat-eater is no small thing.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      I beg to differ.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Erm

      Fiona, I, too, am a vegetarian for the same reasons and I totally agree!
      I once had a server tell me that the hors d'oeurves she was passing around contained only tomato and cheese. I made her repeat it. I said, "ONLY tomato and cheese, right?" She agreed. So I ate one. I thought it tasted funny, but wasn't sure....next thing I know, I hear her telling another guest that they contain tomato, cheese, and BACON. I almost vomited. I did cry. Horrible!
      I don't know if it was on purpose or if she was just not bright, but I don't think non-vegetarians quite understand the absolute horror and guilt associated with our eating meat!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      Cook your own food at home or eat uncooked veg food outside. You can't be a strict vegetarian if you eat in mainstream restaurants. Period!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Erm

      Easy for you to say. This was a work-function.
      When someone ASSURES you that something is vegetarian, you should be able to take him or her at his or her word.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      Fiona, this is my response to your reaction to my statement of "God and religion". I don't believe in following any one religious book. People believe in 1000s of gods all over the world. All the major conflicts in through out the history were due to religios differences.

      July 22, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  7. delbre

    as long the mind is full of filth, purifying the body will not cleanse the soul, no matter in how many millions of ganges they bathe in.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      Well said!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  8. Ironic

    for crying out loud, why in the world they chose to order from the Mughal Express restaurant when there are 100 other restaurants run by hindus are there in little India ?

    July 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      My point exactly!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Fiona

      Maybe because it's cheap?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  9. Alex

    Damn, now I want a samosa, veg or meat. Gotta go!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Giuseppe B

    They should get over themselves, and the restaurant should give them a free (vegetarian) meal.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  11. frank

    Why don't these offended diners demand oral sex from the owners' daughter as compensation instead? Seems a more reasonable solution to me!

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

      We should demand the same from your daughter or wife or sister for your stupid comment.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  12. John

    "We didnt claw our up to the top of the food chain.....to eat Vegetables." thats a saying on of my favorite t-shirts. thats all ill say, i mean thats what my t-shirt says. 🙂

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

      Thanks to a comet, we are top of the food chain. Else we would still be foraging in the forests. Btw, Elephants do not eat meat.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  13. Gabbar Singh

    God and religion is the biggest lie invented by man

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

      Men are the biggest liars created by God

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

      "God and religion is"? Gee, I am overwhelmed by your intellect.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  14. 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 9:53 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, and the thought of p"purifing" yourself in the gangies, is stupid. India uses there river as AN OPEN SEWER SYSTEM, you get sick from the water not pure.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      I agree.

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

      Mickey, they did specify the town at the headwaters. Did you miss that?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  15. Jason B

    Oh good grief. Really? Last I knew you got much nastier bathing in the Ganges than you ever would eating the "wrong" thing.

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

      That is because their religion doesn't say anything about taking a dump in their holy river.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  16. Jim Weix

    How long are we going to put up with this religious crap?
    God did not create religion, man did. As such it is flawed and full of whackjobs.

    July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Gabbar Singh

      obviously some people can't get that thru their religiously clogged head.

      July 22, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  17. Hindu

    One thing I don't understand is; did all the 16 people took a bite at same time? lol

    July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • mickey1313

      exactly. This is worse then eating an entire meal, then saying it was awful and refusing to pay.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  18. alex

    mmmm meat
    I love meat samosas
    give me meat or give me meat

    July 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  19. CurryLove

    What's remarkable about the hate-filled CNN forums is that most of you racist bigots will probably smile and nod at me in public, but spew this crap online.

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

      ya fake smile!!! most of them have hatred inside!!!

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

      No, I will avoid you because you smell like curry.

      July 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • mickey1313

      as a person I have no problem with hindu's, in fact I respect your many thousands of years old faith much much more then monothiestic abramic religons. I do not think however that the majority of people should bend and bow to meet the special wants of a small group. If vegitarianism is so important, then make all of your food yourself. But serously Ive read the bagniva gita, anf the vemata strasusa (spelling) and I think they are exilent works. much better then the bible and the koran.

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

      And you guys never seem to use deoderant.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • ryan

      I absolutely agree with you that these commenters sicken me and I am a white American. America is the greatest melting pot in human history. Unfortunately, there will always be closed-minded, lowlifes out there who are frankly undeserving of living in this great country.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Erm

      You got it. The internet is full of cowards who would never say half the stuff they say on here to someone's face.

      Like "Smeller" here, for example.

      Mickey...first of all, it's "vegetarianism", and second of all, if something is labelled "vegetarian" it should be vegetarian. That's not "catering" to anyone. That's making sure that your customers get the food they ordered...an India restaurant especially, that serves a LOT of vegetarians, should be more cognizant of who is getting what. No, they should not pay them to go to India, but yes, they should at least be refunded their money and offered a free meal.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Michael

      If the restaurant had said that to the customers and the customers ordered anyway, you'd have a point. But the restaurant AGREED to fulfill their customers' wishes. That's what they call a verbal contract. They were told of the customers' demands and why it was being demanded and they agreed to take it on in return for their business, and they failed in what amounts to a very simple request. The cost of doing business is that if you default on a contract you must pay consequences. If you do not like the consequences, do not enter the contract.

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

      God forgive smeller, he has eaten a Mad Cow.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Hindu

      @ smeller...you cover up the smell with deos and cologne and lick each others butthole!!!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Vishnu sucks!

      I do not head nod to Indians...nor smile at them...like giving a head nod to a goat..or a smile to a chicken...unable to appreciate, or understand it .....

      July 22, 2011 at 5:26 am |
    • Rob

      Um, you're one to talk smeller, you guys never shower or wash your clothes... curry smells WAY better than that!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  20. Gabbar Singh

    If these idiots are so sensitive, they should stick with eating at home. What goes on behind the restaurant kitchen doors, nobody knows. If I were them, I would not even eat where flesh is cooked. Even if they had the veg samosas, what's the guarantee that samosas were not fried in the same fryer where the other meat dishes were fried. Just trying to make a point.
    So grow the hell up you hypocrite morons. Follow the religious teachings right and don't manipulate them.
    If the rest. management apologized and refunded their $35, they should move on.

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

      I will stick a samosa in your ass and apologize!!!

      July 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • mickey1313

      agreed, and to hindu, after i just said all the nice things. THIS IS WHY RELIGONS< ALL RELIGONS ARE CROUPT BAD AND NEEDS TO GO.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Sunil Bhai

      तुमारा गांडू हम मारका गांडू

      July 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Vishnu sucks!

      Hindu...you will do no such thing you impotent fool...if you stop answering the customer service phone calls then you will be fired...now be a good boy and use your best english and tell them your name is "Tim" when they ask a question....

      July 22, 2011 at 5:10 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.