Butter Chicken’s Origin in Question: Indian Judge to Rule on Dispute

Butter Chicken’s Origin in Question: Indian Judge to Rule on Dispute

The iconic and globally beloved Indian dish, butter chicken, has become the center of a legal dispute between two renowned restaurant chains in India. The legal showdown, gaining considerable attention in the country, involves the family behind Moti Mahal, a historic Delhi-based restaurant frequented by notable figures such as late U.S. President Richard Nixon and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Moti Mahal claims that its founder, Kundan Lal Gujral, crafted the famous curry in the 1930s when the restaurant initially opened in Peshawar before later relocating to Delhi. In a comprehensive 2,752-page court filing, Moti Mahal is suing rival chain Daryaganj, alleging that it falsely claims to have invented both butter chicken and dal makhani, another popular butter and cream-laden lentil dish.

The Gujral family is seeking $240,000 in damages and accuses Daryaganj of mimicking Moti Mahal’s website layout and the overall ambiance of its restaurants. Monish Gujral, the managing director at Moti Mahal, emphasizes, “You cannot take away somebody’s legacy. The dish was invented when our grandfather was in Pakistan.”

Daryaganj, established in 2019, counters the claims by asserting that their late family member, Kundan Lal Jaggi, had collaborated with Gujral to open the Delhi restaurant in 1947, where they contend the dish was invented. To support their argument, Daryaganj has shared a faded, hand-written partnership document registered in 1949.

The dispute has captivated the nation, with Indian TV broadcasters airing segments on the dish’s history, and social media buzzing with debates. Intellectual property lawyer Ameet Datta from India’s Saikrishna & Associates notes, “It’s an offbeat, unique case. You really don’t know who created the first dish of butter chicken. The court will be hard-pressed and will need to rely on circumstantial evidence.”

Critical to the case may be testimonies from individuals who can connect specific brands to the dish they consumed decades ago. Butter chicken, a velvety delight made with tandoor-cooked chicken pieces in a tomato gravy with cream and butter, holds the 43rd spot in the list of the world’s “best dishes” by TasteAtlas, as rated by nearly 400,000 users. The next hearing for this intriguing legal battle is scheduled for May after the initial proceedings at the Delhi High Court last week.

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