Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani ownership stirs up legal battle between two Delhi restaurants

The culinary world has witnessed a simmering dispute over the origins of two iconic Indian dishes: butter chicken and dal makhani. This gastronomic controversy has now boiled over into the legal arena, with two prominent Delhi restaurants—Moti Mahal and Daryaganj—embroiled in a court battle over the rightful claim to the invention of these recipes.

The heart of the contention lies in the legacy of Kundan Lal Gujral, an esteemed chef and restaurateur who, along with his partner Kundan Lal Jaggi, is credited with creating these dishes at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Daryaganj, Delhi, after the Partition of India. The duo’s innovative cooking techniques, particularly their use of leftover tandoori chicken in a rich tomato and butter sauce, gave birth to what is now known globally as butter chicken or murgh makhani. Similarly, their quest for a vegetarian complement to butter chicken led to the creation of dal makhani, a creamy lentil dish that has since become a staple in North Indian cuisine.

Despite the historical association of these dishes with Moti Mahal, the Daryaganj restaurant has laid claim to the title of “Inventors of Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani” on their official website. This assertion has sparked a lawsuit from the owners of Moti Mahal, who maintain that their predecessor, the late Chef Kundan Lal Gujral, has been recognized as the sole inventor of these dishes since the 1950s. They accuse Daryaganj of misappropriating their business, goodwill, and reputation by making false claims and using misleading imagery.

In court, Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi, representing Moti Mahal, contended that the defendants are engaging in deceptive practices by creating a false association between their “DARYAGANJ” restaurants and the original “MOTI MAHAL” restaurant in Daryaganj. The argument emphasized that Daryaganj establishments are misleading the public by featuring an image of the Plaintiffs’ predecessor, Kundan Lal Gujral, on their Facebook page, falsely presenting it as that of the defendants’ predecessor, Kundan Lal Jaggi.

The counsel for Moti Mahal has additionally accused Daryaganj restaurants of manipulating the photograph of the Moti Mahal Restaurant in Peshawar on their website. This allegation was supported by a comparison with the ‘original’ photograph displayed on the plaintiffs’ own website.
On the other side, Amit Sibal, representing Daryaganj, has countered that the lawsuit is unfounded, lacking merit, and without a valid cause of action. Both senior advocate Sibal and advocate Anand argued in court that the defendants have not made any false representation or claim, asserting that the allegations in the suit are far from the truth.

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