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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. Akash

    I bet they enjoyed the food, but when they realized that it has meat in it, they come-up with the idea of traveling to India on restaurants costs.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  2. Reality

    Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."

    The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."

    Current crises/problems:

    The caste system, incarnation, lack of protein and cow worship/reverence.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  3. MalibuChick

    Did they not notice the flavor or the consistency? Just spit it out.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  4. matter of fact Indian

    Well – its for some hindus that meat is taboo. For a great part – it is not. So Indian restaurants can very well serve meat to their clientele. No hindu scripture explicitly forbids meat eating – it only forbids violence. I believe this is exploiting the US judicial system to extract a free passage to India to visit the releatives. Yes – the restaurant does owe an apology and a free lunch / dinner coupon to them – but nothing else. Sometimes I feel swift justice in US is a bane and people sue each other for no apparent reason at the drop of a hat. They wouldn't have even thought about registering a case in an Indian court.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Raju

      Well, Vegetarianism is either by choice or by belief. In either case, nobody has any right to disrespect that and make comment on that. Every person has their own views and feelings about things. When you are forced to do something you do not like, those feelings are hurt. For sure, there is no price that can compensate the hurt feeling. If somebody feels that going to Ganges makes them feel better (or even visiting relatives), then the person who was responsible for the hurt feeling has to bear that cost. People who are not Vegetarian (or pretend to be vegetarian) does not have any right to comment on this as you do not even know how it feels to be violated of your feelings.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Mike

      I agree wholeheartedly. This is so obvious a greedy attempt to get money and free trips to visit the relatives. The case should be dismissed and the plaintiff's and their attorney sanctioned for filing a frivalous lawsuit. If the judge does have a brainfart and rules in favor of these morons. I hope the business owner then says fine, here are your flights, you want to purify your soul in the Ganges river there, you arrive at 8am local time, your return flight departs at 1pm the same day. Enjoy 30+ hours in the air in less then a 48 hour period. If you miss your return flight, its on you to fund your own way back.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Raju

      Mike, would you be OK if a restaurant feeds you food with habanero chillies and we apply the same logic that you should bear all the sufferings and restaurant is not responsible for the pain?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • matter of fact Indian

      @Raju – nobody actually forced them – it was just a mistake. The restaurant accepted and apologized, and a compensation of saner proportions would have been just. But this whole 'trip to India to cleanse ones soul' thing is so ridiculous and over the top.

      July 22, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  5. Vijay

    They may cleanse their souls and avoid hell ... but they'll definitely not be going to heaven for suing the poor restaurant. Thats a sin coz the restaurant didnt do it intentionally. So in the end they'll end up between heaven and hell. Which is here.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  6. Sparky

    Don't worry. We got it. You hate Hindus. That's why we enjoy taking all your top college spots and all your best jobs. That's why we're among the richest and most educated among you.

    We know what you think of us.

    Which is why, in this economic depression, when the best and brightest are moving ahead and the rest are sliding into the abyss, we're waving goodbye to you.

    Goodbye.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Sparky's Boss at 7/11

      Hey Sparky! Go fix the slurpee machine!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Sparky

      So sorry. Too busy watching your mom eat out your sister down at the club. Not worth my money, though.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • American-Paki College student

      LOL I know bro. Look at South Asians, East Asians, and Middle Easterners. We're disproportionately represented in the nations top schools

      July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Sparky

      @American-Paki Yup, and despite admissions quotas designed to keep us out and keep the whites in. Look at the University of California, where they abolished affirmative action. It's half-asian now. Best of all, whites hate affirmative action when it's all they've got.

      Do me proud, and send another one of them to the gutter.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  7. 2frootyme

    Stop all these religious nonsense. I have heard enough from Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews that their God is suprior and more forgiving than others. If you ALL think your God is more kind and more merciful than others, then forgive and move on. Why all this drama?. None of the religions did any good for humanity and nor they will do any good in future. If all these religions think they are peaceful and merciful than why killings? Someone kills by dropping bombs with F-16s and someone kills with Guns and someone blows himself to kill others. The believers of No-God are much better than others since they are NOT causing harm to anyone.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  8. frootyme

    Stop all these religious nonsense. I have heard enough from Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews that their God is suprior and more forgiving than others. If you ALL think your God is more kind and more merciful than others, then forgive and move on. Why all this drama?. None of the religions did any good for humanity and nor they will do any good in future. If all these religions think they are peaceful and merciful than why killings? Someone kills by dropping bombs with F-16s and someone kills with Guns and someone blows himself to kill others. The believers of No-God are much better than others since they are NOT causing harm to anyone.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  9. Andacar

    I'm waiting for the day when a thief tries to break into my house, fails because of the locks and alarms, and then successfully sues me for emotional distress for "failing to validate his legitimate alternative lifestyle." That's where the legal system is heading. A word to the poor suffering plaintiffs: GET OVER IT.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Vijay

      lol!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Mike

      That's why I armed, if a thief breaks into my house in the middle of the night, well lets just say no one ever came looking for revenge or filed a lawsuit from the cemetery.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  10. Joel Weymouth

    I worked with an Indian some time ago that ordered a can of bean chili from a food dispenser. He assumed that it was "beans and chilies. I saw him eating it and asked him about his choice. I was under the impression he was a vegetarian. He said he was, and told him he was eating meat. He looked at me, I pointed to the label ingredients, and he then said to me matter-of-factly, "oh well", through out the can and went back to work. There was nothing more said. I think these plaintiffs have learned the "victim" culture.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Raju

      Joel, what your friend did is correct as he did not know and did not notice that there was meat in the food. When he discovered that, he gave up that food and moved on. In this case though, if the "victims" truly asked the restaurant folks about meat and if the restaurant denied the presence of meat in their food and still served food with meat in it, that is cheating and is/should not be tolerated. I know quite a few friends/kids who are allergic to specific food grains. When they go to restaurants, they confirm with the restaurant folks that the food does not have the allergic material or at least the food that they order should not have that. If, after confirming that the food they ordered will not have allergic food grain, the restaurant still serves them the same food grain which could potentially cause health disorders, do we shrug off and move on or do we take action on the restaurant? This is exactly the same thing. One causes bodily injury and other causes emotional injury.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  11. pithymcgee

    So... can I sue all the believers for making me and the other atheists suffer emotionally?

    July 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  12. Marine5484

    If it was a mistake then it was just that a mistake. They do not need to go to India to "cleanse there souls" because i'm sure there religion says intentional consumption of meat. There are just to many sue happy people and lawyers willing to pick up these cases. I'm pretty sure an apology will do.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  13. Claudia null McCabe

    Clearly there was a MISTAKE made and nothing more. But I have a naive question, I really don't know, and I'm curious. If you are a vegetarian, and you eat a meat FLAVORED product, such as a veggie burger, or a tofu hot dog, or "cheese" made from soy milk are you REALLY a vegetarian?? If it even just tastes like a meat or dairy product are you really being a true vegetarian? I'm just asking.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • forum

      u r vegetarian by actions but not by soul..bcz u r still craving meat flavor..

      same as thinking of brad pitt while making love to hubby..

      July 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Veggie

      Yes you're still a vegetarian, by soulor whatever means. No-one is denying the fact that meat tastes good, we simply don't want to harm the animals. Similarly, if you drink Diet Dr. Pepper and it really tastes like regular Dr. Pepper, are you still on a diet?

      July 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Darren Sisco

      Eating meat flavored meals is the equivelant of a smoker using a patch. As American's we are raised in the belief that meat is the only protien and dairy is necessary. We procure our tastes from our mother's womb based on what she ate. So there is a natural desire to have meat for some vegan's. Having something that reminds them of meat or dairy is a God send. Plus your not breaking your vegan vow to meat celibacy. Your literally eating combined herbs and plants that taste like meat.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  14. I

    he would make one hot hindu rawr.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • frank

      Is it ok that I think of brad pitt while making love to my wife?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  15. tstockt

    maybe next time open them up a little and see if there is any meat if it is that big a deal.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  16. forum

    "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. "

    only a hindu or indian would drop to such low levels and fight his fellow hindu or indian..Have u ever heard of a muslim condemn another muslim or a jew fight another??

    July 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Tia

      If you think Jews, Muslims or any other religion doesn't fight each other, you don't get out of your cave much.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • anonymous

      just because the person is same as your nationality does not mean you support whatever BS he/she does. grow up my friend. Accept your mistakes.

      July 22, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  17. Cartman

    Do you like it? Do you like it Scott?

    July 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • I mmm

      how do your parents taste?

      July 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Uramoron

      how are your correlating animal meat to parents?

      July 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  18. SAWolf

    When they get to India , STAY THERE!

    July 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  19. Ram

    Thank you very much Durgesh Gupta, Sharad Agrawal, K. Raja Bhattacharya, and David Novack.

    Thanks for bringing this issue to public's attention. I hope the court does the right thing and reprimands the restaurant. Jews and Muslims should support this case because this could very well happen to them.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • I mmm

      why don't you look at the foot before shoving it down your throat?! seems pretty obvious to me.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • I mmm

      food not foot.

      July 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  20. grenwood

    Other meat eating Hindus should not speak for these vegetarians and I myself stay vegetarian on Mondays because of personal choice and not because of religion.

    July 21, 2011 at 11:28 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.