Legal tussle over who invented butter chicken and dal makhani reaches Delhi HC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Legal tussle over who invented butter chicken and dal makhani reaches Delhi high court

By, New Delhi
Jan 21, 2024 05:08 AM IST

Moti Mahal, the restaurant credited with inventing butter chicken, has sued rival restaurant Daryaganj for claiming it was their ancestor who created the dish.

Two Kundan Lals, one of the Capital’s most famous restaurants and a luscious tomato gravy --- a lawsuit filed in Delhi high court has all the ingredients of a juicy legal battle that could settle a crucial culinary question: Who invented butter chicken?

The owners of Moti Mahal have sued rival Indian cuisine restaurant Daryaganj for claiming it was their ancestor that invented the butter chicken and dal makhani. (Shutterstock)
The owners of Moti Mahal have sued rival Indian cuisine restaurant Daryaganj for claiming it was their ancestor that invented the butter chicken and dal makhani. (Shutterstock)

The owners of Moti Mahal have sued rival Indian cuisine restaurant Daryaganj for claiming it was their ancestor that invented the butter chicken and dal makhani, prompting the Delhi high court to seek the latter’s response in a notice issued on January 16.

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Moti Mahal is run by the descendants of Kundan Lal Gujral and Daryaganj by that of Kundan Lal Jaggi. The two Kundan Lals, along with a third friend of theirs from Peshawar, together ran the Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj in the Capital’s Old Delhi area after moving from Peshawar, where the restaurant first was set up. The restaurant is considered the birthplace of butter chicken and its vegetarian cousin dal makhani.

In the lawsuit filed through senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, Rupa Gujral, the daughter of Kundan Lal Gujral, and her son Monish Gujral, have sought the owners of Daryaganj to be ordered to stop claiming they invented the two dishes, and be restrained from making the claim that Gujral was merely the face of the restaurant responsible for “front end management” while Jaggi was the chef who came up with the recipes.

“The plaintiff’s predecessor, late Mr Kundan Gujral is popularly known as ‘the inventor of tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhani’. In addition to this, late chef Kundan Lal Gujral, also invented ‘dal makhani’. The invention of dal makhani is closely linked with the invention of butter chicken. He applied the same recipe with black lentils and gave birth to dal makhani around the same time,” read the suit.

The Gujrals in the suit sought 2 crore as damages from Daryaganj while stating that the restaurant is attempting to mislead people into believing there is a relation between both by making claims on their website and other promotional material. The alleged misuse, the lawsuit has claimed, “not only has the likelihood of diluting the brand’s distinctive character but also erodes its reputation and goodwill.

“By adopting the impugned name ‘DARYAGANJ’ for the restaurants in question and applying for registration of the impugned marks as mentioned above, the defendant are attempting to create an association/ connection/ nexus with the plaintiffs’ predecessor late Mr Kundan Lal Gujral’s first Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj. The said defendants are attempting to mislead the consuming public into believing that their restaurants under the impugned name are in some manner connected with the plaintiffs’ predecessor’s first Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj, when in fact no such connection or association exists,” read the suit.

Rupa Gujral’s case has also sought that videos of interviews given by the owners of Daryaganj in the media, including in the show Shark Tank where the latter made investment pitches, be removed for claiming that Jaggi was the inventor.

While Daryaganj is yet to file its response, the restaurant, appearing through senior advocate Amit Sibal, submitted that the first Moti Mahal was established jointly by predecessors of both parties (Gujral of Moti Mahal and Jaggi of Daryaganj) in Peshawar. The counsel also submitted that they have not engaged in any false representation and the allegations are baseless and lack a cause of action.

To demonstrate what he said was goodwill and to foster a spirit of cooperation between the parties, Daryaganj’s counsel undertook to remove the photo of Moti Mahal’s restaurant in Peshawar from its website.

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