By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An appeals court has cleared the way for a group of vegetarian Hindus to sue an Indian restaurant in New Jersey after it mistakenly served them meat.
The group is seeking damages, including the cost of a trip to India for a purification ceremony, and compensation for emotional distress and spiritual injuries.
The lawsuit, filed by 16 people, stems from August 10, 2009, when they say that vegetarian samosas they ordered from Moghul Express in Edison Township, N.J., were filled with meat, according to documents in Superior Court of New Jersey.
One of the people filing suit, Durgesh Gupta, said in the documents he was emphatic he wanted vegetarian samosas. A restaurant employee told him he need not worry, as the restaurant did not make the stuffed-pastry snacks any other way, the documents said.
Gupta bought a take-out container marked "VEG samosas" but when he and the group began eating the samosas, they realized something was amiss, the documents said.
The restaurant conceded there was a mix-up, and another customer who had ordered meat-filled samosas had mistakenly been given the vegetarian order.
The restaurant gave the customers a fresh round of their correct orders without charge.
But Gupta and the others say that was insufficient, claiming that eating meat "affects the karma and dharma, or purity of the soul," thereby preventing their souls from going to God after their deaths, according to the documents.
Dietary restrictions vary widely across different Hindu groups and, while many Hindus eat meat, others adhere to strict forms of vegetarianism or veganism on religious grounds.
Gupta said in the lawsuit that they must visit Haridwar, a pilgrimage city in northern India on the banks of the River Ganges, Hinduism's most sacred river, for a "religious cleansing ceremony."
The lawsuit was initially dismissed, but an appeals court partially reversed that decision on Monday, saying the group had grounds to sue.
K. Raja Bhattacharya, the group's attorney, declined to say whether they already made the trip to India and how much the trip might cost.
Kamal Arora, chief executive officer of Moghul Caterers, the company that operates Moghul Express, said on Wednesday he could not comment because the legal case was pending.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)