The lawsuit, which has become a hot topic in India, was filed by the family behind Moti Mahal, a well-known Delhi restaurant that has hosted the late US President Richard Nixon and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru among its guests.
It claims that Kundan Lal Gujral, the restaurant’s founder, created the curry in the 1930s, when the restaurant first opened in Peshawar before moving to Delhi. In a 2,752-page court filing, it accuses rival chain Daryaganj of falsely claiming to have invented both the dish and dal makhani, a popular lentil dish loaded with butter and cream. The Gujral family is seeking $240,000 in damages, alleging that Daryaganj copied the layout of Moti Mahal’s website as well as “the look and feel” of its restaurants.
“You cannot erase someone’s legacy.” The dish was invented while our grandfather was in Pakistan,” said Monish Gujral, managing director of Moti Mahal.
Daryaganj, which was founded in 2019, counters that its late family member, Kundan Lal Jaggi, collaborated with Gujral to open the Delhi restaurant in 1947, where the dish was invented. It contends that this gives it the right to claim credit for creating the dish. Daryaganj provided Reuters with a faded, handwritten partnership document registered in 1949 to back up its argument.
The dispute has captivated the nation’s attention, with Indian TV broadcasters airing segments about the dish’s history and a social media debate raging.
“It’s an unusual case. You really don’t know who invented butter chicken.” The court will be under pressure and will have to rely on circumstantial evidence,” said Ameet Datta, an intellectual property lawyer at India’s Saikrishna & Associates.
People’s testimonies linking the brand to the dish they ate decades ago could be critical evidence, according to Datta.
The dish, made with tandoor-cooked chicken pieces mixed in a tomato gravy with dollops of cream and butter, was ranked 43rd in TasteAtlas’ list of the worlds “best dishes” based on ratings from nearly 400,000 users. It was the second most popular Indian dish after butter, garlic, and naan bread. The two are frequently paired together.
The case was first heard by the Delhi High Court last week, with the next hearing scheduled for May.