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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. Rush

    Myself being a Hindu,I don't understand why people are so fussy about religion.I eat all kinds of meat and try to be good at heart and I think being good to others should be the first priority in all religions.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  2. Srik

    Wt a bunch of idiots...I am Indian and I can certainly vouch for people taking themselves too seriously..Yeah it was not a nice thing for them apparently, but going back to India to cleanse their sins? There are some scriptures which actually say its a sin to leave India.. what about that? That being said, do not go to a restaurant named "Moghul" anything if you only want vegetarian food. For Gods sake..who goes to a Moghul restaurant that is famous for tandoori chicken to eat beans?

    July 22, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  3. psingh

    I am Hindu, read Ramayan and Mahabharat. I do not see anywhere where it says meat is forbidden. BUT lot of Hindu health Literature do talk about for good health, meat is not good. These guys are trying to take advantage of the law. ( abusing the law of the USA) . If you do not want to eat meat - GO back where you came from. Simple.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • KK

      agreed! all this is man-made BS .. I am a hindu too and it is shocking to see people in this day and age believe in nonsense. These samosa eaters will definitely feel cleansed (after mix bowel syndrome and series of stomach aches) after bathing in the ganges with a million other people.. talk about hygiene!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • marh

      Ahimsa, the concept of nonviolence that is a major part of hinduism, forbids harming other beings including animals.
      Im pretty sure killing an animal and eating its carcass for your pleasure violates that principle.
      Thats why they are upset and they have every right to be. The fact that you are unaware that eating meat is looked down upon in hinduism is pretty strange, especially considering that about 40% of people in india does not eat meat. According to the Mahabharata ""Nonviolence is the highest duty and the highest teaching."
      So go and read your scriptures again and im sure youll find someplace where it says not to eat meat

      July 22, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  4. fckurreligion

    u shouldn't be able to sue someone based on religious beliefs.. the owners of this restaurant aren't hindu so what about protecting their rights as well??! ... and so what if some small town diner makes a minor mistake~ it happens.. however if a major food corporation is marketing something as vegetarian when it really isn't.. that's definitely a problem worth taking to the courts~ but on a completely different issue >_<;;

    July 22, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  5. Colin

    "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."

    So, if they believed that their magic, soul-clensing river was in Paris, should they get a trip there?

    They should be ordered to pay the restaurant's attorneys' fees and an adder of punitives for expecting the legal system to buy in to their Brnze Age sky-god nonsense.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  6. R, WA

    For future reference, I am a strict agnostic, and I believe that if a restaurant makes a mistake in my order I need to go to Hawaii to purify myself through vacationing with other people's money.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Lila

      Me too and all of my crew. We are all in need of some holy cleansing in the warm and tranquil waters of the Caribbean.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • butch

      like obama?

      July 22, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  7. KK

    OMG! this is one of the stupidest thing I have heard. I am a hindu myself and some of these beliefs are nothing but "man-made melodrama". I occasionally eat meat and my soul is perfectly fine. As holy as the ganges is claimed to be, thousands of people bathe in the same water every single day.. you can judge how hygienic that must be and how "cleansed" the souls of samosa eaters will get!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • KK

      things i mean . lol

      July 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  8. Aaron

    Take all the vegetarians back to India with you, and stay there. Nothing worse than a bunch of freaking self-righteous condescending vegetable heads.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • virgoptrex

      US is melting pot of culture you racist piece of c***. So if you want to throw someone out of US throw yourself out first along with all criminals and terrorists. It would make US a much better place!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • KK

      Aaron, there are vegetarians all over the world.. you aren't getting the point here!!! arrgg.. now I need some jamaican water soul cleansing maaaan..

      July 22, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  9. Colin

    What a complete non-event.

    A few people decide to try and make themselves some money, with the assistancee of some sleeze-bag attorney, over perfectly good food. This story demonstrates what is wrong with out legal system and how backwards and ill-educated staunch Hindus are.

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

      And it shows what an idiot you are...

      July 22, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  10. Deepak

    So eating meat is sin and drinking cow urine is pure. i would rather eat meat than drink cow urine.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  11. malluman

    umnnnnnnn..... They wnat to go to river ganges to clean their what? ...... I am bit confused here. That river is full of dead bodies and sh>>t. These stupid idiots want to clean their..... I gues their A>>>S.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  12. Meat Samosa

    WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS U BASTARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  13. Jennifer

    This is stupid. I'm sorry that their consciences were violated, but having the restaurant pay for a trip to India is over the top. The restaurant may owe something for deceit/messing up, though.
    As far as the fries, I don't think McDonald's ever claimed they were vegetarian. If it's that important to you, then ASK.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • A Real Indian Man

      You rock!

      July 22, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  14. Sujata

    I bet they want a free ride to India all the way to cool Himalayas in the name of 'soul cleansing'.Bioogically their body is cleaned after they pooed the yummy samosa!! This is taking 'suing' toooooo far!

    July 22, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  15. siddhartha

    The court should not even be accepting these kind of cases......... they are not gng to die if they eat meat....... if they have so many restrictions just ask them to cook at their homes and stop eating outside ........... these kind of minor mistakes happen sometimes ........... i think these people are just over reacting or may they are dead broke and want to make some money out of this........

    July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  16. lilboutlot

    if they never eat meat... how do they know that they ate meat?

    July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  17. Rajiv

    This is just shameful display of greed an misuse of legal rights. It is not like they were allergic to it and had physical trauma. These people are willing to sue a small business into bankruptcy while claiming emotional trauma. Apologies, free meal coupons, etc should help them assuage the 'emotional' trauma/ anguish.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  18. Syed

    I have worked with wonderful hard working Hindu employees who were strict Vegetarian. I respect their beliefs. I always made sure that their dietary needs were accommodated at occasions. Their dietary requirements are not much different than Islamic or may be Judaic traditions in certain ways. I expect the restaurant management to be sensitive to the vegetarian customers. I ask my Hindu friends to forgive them, as we (humans) all do mistakes and we do not know it.

    Peace.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • mickey1313

      it is not the responsibility of the restraunt to pay atention to each customers special needs. If they are that picky (and that is what it comes down to) then they should eat at home.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  19. Vb

    Those Hindus have all the right to use this restaurant. For someone who does not eat meat – eating meat is same as -for someone who eats meat – to have eaten a human flesh. No difference in the yucky feeling that will exist for the life of these diners. They should this restaurant's butt off.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • mickey1313

      it is not the same as eating human flesh. The eating of humans is illigal, the eating of meat is healthy, and we would be the same as chimps without the cooking and eating of meat. If I were a restrauntur, I would post a sign saying no speal request, that would end that problem, just like my sign of "NO ONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18, FOR ANY REASON", we need more of those signs on business doors.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Lila

      It was a simple mistake. If they are so hard core in their beliefs then they should leave nothing to chance and handle all of their own food preparation.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • R, WA

      They entered the restaurant with full knowledge that meat was served there. They ordered with full knowledge that meat was prepared in the kitchen, and by the cooks. And they had full knowledge that part of the bill is going to buy meat and related supplies for the restaurant. Even if they didn't eat the meat, they've done everything they could to support it. And they didn't even check the food before diving in... it seems like it wasn't very important to them until they thought they could extort money out of the establishment.

      Unless the restaurant makes some sort of explicit legal guarantee that the food will be correct or they win a free vacation, they should have stopped at a nasty yelp review. Their beliefs are their own responsibility, the restaurant has nothing to do with them, and they chose to be customers. They should be paying for the legal expenses of the business.

      July 22, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  20. Lee

    More religious absurdity.

    July 22, 2011 at 12:23 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.