The PVR cinema national anthem controversy created a large scale debate in India. Many consider that the family indeed disrespected the national anthem by not standing up. On the other hand many did argue that legally it's not mandatory to stand up when the national anthem is being played. Some like the AIMIM leader Warish Pathan even tried to give the incident a communal color by saying that Muslims need not prove their patriotism by respecting the national anthem or such national symbols as by heart all Muslims are patriots.
But there are some facts which are indisputable. The hooliganistic act of the mob inside the PVR cinema is absolutely condemnable as they had no right to force or evict anybody from the cinema for any reason. The family, which had refused to stand for the national anthem really didn't commit any illegality and neither, was it unpatriotic. Patriotism is something that comes from within and no external exhibition is required to prove it. Also no Indian Muslim needs to follow some imposed rules to prove his/her patriotism. They are equally patriotic like every other Indian citizen.
But India is not a state which is governed by rule of law only.India has a heterogeneous population having a complex society. There are lots of social rules, customs, ethics, niceties inside this complex society which is very closely linked to the sentiments of people. Thus while being one amongst the society, one has to follow certain social rules and exhibit certain social conducts so that the emotions and sentiment of others are not hurt. These rules and conducts have nothing to do with the legal system and sometimes even contradict the law of the land, but still need to be observed to maintain the integrity and social fabric of this complex society.
For example, if a village is observing some Puja, in which majority of people are participating, if a person eats non-vegetarian food in front of the puja pendal, he might be legally right but very wrong as per social conduct. If in some society or club, people are observing a dress code, you can wear another dress legally but you are wrong socially. One can enter in to an office wearing Lungi legally but he would be guilty socially.
Similarly if there is a public congregation due to the demise of a popular person, you can laugh loudly legally, but you would be guilty of violating social ethics. Thus the basic point is that one must respect social customs and observe the ethics in order to avoid hurting anyone's sentiments. When one violates a law, he may not have such a significant impact on the society (if the crime is a petty one), but violating social conduct sometimes has tremendous impact on the society which even the law of the land may not be able to control, at least in the short term.
It's always said that human beings are anarchists by nature. This anarchist nature is always curbed by imposing certain rules and laws. But human sentiments are so volatile and unpredictable that they can lead to the worst of situations by even small provocations. Taking the example of communal riots, one can understand that such incidents which in fact are very inhuman can spark off due to hurt sentiments. The hurt sentiments could be due to vested interests or natural, but the results are always catastrophic.
Without going into such big humanitarian crisis, I can also give very simple examples. A truck mows down a person, but the truck driver is not at fault. However the emotions towards the deceased person are so high, that people torch the truck within minutes, while almost killing the driver. We always say that mobocracy and crowd justice are beastly acts, but again such mobocracy and crowd justice spark from an emotional outburst resulting from hurt sentiments.
A good citizen must realize that he has an obligation to the society in helping to maintain peace and order. No act of his, be it right or wrong should be a cause of hurting sentiments, provoking unrest, even though for a short duration.
Coming back to the PVR cinema issue, I would say that the family didn't do any wrong legally by refusing to stand-up for the national anthem. What they forgot was that the national anthem was being sung as part of a documentary in respecting the heroes of 26/11. Ordinarily in cinemas when the national anthem is played as part of the feature film, almost no one stands up. But here 26/11 is a very sentimental issue for all Mumbaikars. Thus refusing to stand-up, the family did violate the social custom and ethics which hurt the sentiments of other Mumbaikers, irrespective of cast, creed and religion. These hurt sentiments led to an emotional outburst and people started behaving like a mob. The PVR cinema authorities did the right job by asking the family to get out from the cinema hall as a further altercation might have led to serious consequences.
Wise people often remain careful not to hurt others sentiment. There are many intellectuals who are atheist by practice, but such people should not be criticized because they are aware of the sentiments involved in their faiths. The biggest example is Mahatma Gandhi. He was the biggest critic of untouchability in India. He advocated allowing entry of untouchables in temples. He vowed never to enter any temple unless the untouchables were allowed to enter into temples. He had a very clear conviction in him that unless the cast divide ends in Indian society, India can’t get real freedom. Yet, he never tried to enter any temple forcibly carrying `Harijans' along with him. He didn't want to end a social evil in violating another social custom that had emotional and sentimental repercussions during that period.
Thus the bottom line is that although the family in the PVR cinema didn't do any illegal act in refusing to stand-up for the national anthem, they are guilty of violating social conduct, which can abate serious violent repercussions.