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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. hhk

    Even if they were served veg samosas, do they notice that they were fried in same oil as non-veg samosas were prepared...give me a break... if you are that strict go to veg. restaurant...

    July 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • harry

      Or better still, cook your own food at home. I am sick of all these so called Hindu vegetarians who think that they are sin free becos they dont eat non-veg food. Some of them take it far too far...get real and learn to live in the present.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Ron

      I fully agree with you and this issue should be more on vegetarians and not hindus only.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  2. TheBuckStopsHere

    More activist judges issuing ridiculous rulings that completely lack common sense and any sense of balance? How is this news? It happens in this country everyday.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • papia

      Would you eat food fried in dog or cat lurd? Would you eat dog, snake and cat meat? To the religious Hindus it is similar. Please think about others too.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • TheBuckStopsHere

      I probably wouldn't enjoy the food cooked in dog or cat lard. Would I demand an all-expenses paid trip to Tahiti to cleanse my soul of the event? Nope because that's excessive and idiotic.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • George

      papia: I do try to think of others; but the only reason this even warrants being in the news is the fact the religion involved ISN'T Christianity. If that were the case, then the family suing the restaurant would have been told that their religious rights and practices "didn't matter".

      July 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • papia

      George: I am an atheist. Asking money for soul clealing is beloney but people shouldn't judge the food habit of people of other people. All religions have ridiculous rituals.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  3. harry

    What nobody will tell you is that one dip in the Ganges river in these modern times will get you so sick that you will then have to visit a hospital to cleanse your body too !!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • HinduBeliever

      Harry - it is all about beliefs ... if you do not have any that's OK – don't try to change others' - 100 million people in the world believes it to cleanse your sins - so think – there is some "thing" in that belief. Again - Ganges in Haridwar is much different than that in Calcutta .... possibly good for many of us to take history and geography lessons of India

      July 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Name

      I think its funny how people try to make people stop doing things that has been a tradition for over a thousand years.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  4. HinduBeliever

    To all those who started judging the people who sued ME. – Yes, plant life is alive and so is every atom in this Universe. Plant life is the lowest form of "live" things that humans can consume and live. Now, if someone feels so strongly about their faith to not consume those higher up in the chain – why does it bother you? Because you did not get a piece of pie? or just simply you feel other should be like you? Please understand, everyone has free-will and freedom to follow their own faith. Try not to impose your beliefs on others and as an example – try telling a Muslim person to eat Pork and see his reaction.
    Also – this is a consumer friendly society... restaurant was careless enough to give something that wasn't right for the people of certain faith. It is as simple as - they could not deliver what that they promised - and paying a price for that. Period. For those who do not agree to the laws of this land – has choice to leave this country and try somewhere else. I bet they will comeback in less than a month. Lastly, don't try to generalize this for every Hindu in the world.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • TheBuckStopsHere

      And you don't believe that price is excessive? Meat versus an all-expenses paid trip to India for 16? Please.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  5. Brian

    I want to sue for smelling curry every time I pass a hindu infested block. For having to do my wash immediately upon my arrival home. Buy me tide and shampoo for my hair too. This is the dumbest ish i have heard seriously.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  6. frank

    The greedy vegetarian diners should be fed alive to a genetically engineered gigantic venus fly-trap, as a stern warning to other litigious scumbags.

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

    Goshness no wonder so many people now adays are giving up on religion. To go all the way to a place in India to repent for eating meat (something that our ancestors in the beginning of time ate raw anyways). I live in a ontario community with an extremely high population of Indians especially hindu and punjabi. When a few of my friends ate candy with geltin by accident they were upset but didn't freak out like this and they are super strict on religion. They don't even eat in restaurants in order to avoid the risk of eating something with meat, these people took the risk of going into a restaurant that served meat anyways so they should've been aware of what could happen.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  8. Hypocrites them all

    Well, the restaurant can counter claim, that as per Hinduism, it is a sin to travel over the sea/ocean. So by being in US they already have sinned and were impure when they ate the samosa.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  9. Shiva

    To purify souls??? My foot... thats a load of hypocrisy...

    July 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  10. son chat

    Love their Meat Samosas by the way. The plaintiffs are just out to make a quick buck.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I've eaten both. While, I AM a meat eater, I'm not a carnivore, I'm an omnivore, so I eat both and actually prefer the vegetable samosas.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  11. ArthurP

    They were eating organically pre-processed vegetable matter. So what is the problem?

    July 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  12. Phil

    Nice to know that atheists posses equal opportunity hate.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Yep, THEY want the entire first amendment repealed.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  13. mickey1313

    erm, the court, ruleing in favor of these fools, IS government, wasnt talking about the restraunt. I think the owners of the restraunt should not apoligize and tell them to pack sand.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      So, there is no longer freedom of religion in this country? Their faith demands ZERO consumption of meat. They were served meat. Hence, the court was correct in permitting the legal action to go forward. Experts in Hindu faith can be presented at trial to explain what purification is necessary in their faith and the court can decide from there what should be the debt of the eating establishment.
      What if my wife were to go for lunch with me, demanding no shrimp and it is served to her, resulting in either her death or hospitalization? We should be stuck with either a massive hospital bill or funeral expenses?!

      July 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • Kuldeep

      @Wzrd1 – I do not think the Hindu religion imposes any restriction on eating meat. This notion of vegetarianism linked to Hinduism is comparing apples and oranges – no link at all.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  14. Katya

    Wow, you sure took a big dose of crazy today.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  15. Kevin

    First of all, people, please realize that most of us who are vegetarian think this is ridiculous. I choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons, but for god's sake, it was an accident. This is really just another example of religion gone too far.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      You are absolutely right. The entire first amendment shall be repealed, to remove that protection of freedom of religion and only the consensus of the Roman Catholic Church shall be enforced.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  16. anahadwolves

    Tell you what: if you'll go back to India and stay there...I'll chip in for your flight. Deal?

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

      Sure, how about dropping u at ur ancestral farm somewhere in europe

      July 21, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      I vote to expel YOU from this nation, as you reject immigration, something that is part of our const i tution, hence you reject it entirely, like a good commie.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Raj

      Ah.... racism. How lovely.

      I imagine you go around telling everyone that you're a racist don't you? No? Not surprising really.
      There's a REASON why most people think racists are MORONS.

      July 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  17. How R u?

    God I hate religions...Suing because you made an inanimate object mad should be laughed at and thrown out of court...They should be given coupons for free meals or a full refund....This is moronic.

    July 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  18. kavita gunaji

    i wonder if there are any pious indians left in the world. what the lawyers of the mughal express restaurant should have done is find out if there were any filthy websites these customers had visited and then they could just have offered twice the amount in veggie samosas as an apology for a wrong order. they would not have had to give these con-artists free tickets to india to cleanse their souls. even a 10 year old indian kid could tell you this is a con game. nothing connected to india is ever crime free.

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

      Kavita, which filthy site has your nude photos ? I'd be interested in looking at them before I go out to eat Samosas.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  19. Robert

    I guess the Hindus don't realize that vegetables were once alive also! They should read Ala Watts essay called "Murder in the Kitchen".

    July 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  20. gman21

    The judge must be a Democrat!

    July 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • How R u?

      No hes indian...What are you stupid?

      July 21, 2011 at 10:19 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.