Chennai, June 10: In a major relief to BSNL employees who were booked for posting an emoji with laughter in response to a serious WhatsApp message, the Madras High Court on Friday quashed the FIR against them.
The complaint against the employees was filed by Vijayalakshmi, a divisional engineer of BSNL in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin. The complainant had posted a video on an official WhatsApp group showing BSNL users complaining about the company's services. However, 46 employees considered Vijayalakshmi's message to be a light-hearted post aimed at taking a dig at the telecom provider.
Vijayalakshmi, who felt "offended" and "humiliated" by the kind of response, approached the Tuticorin police and registered a complaint under Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and Information Technology Act.
The employees subsequently moved the Madras High Court, seeking the dismissal of FIR against them. The case was heard by the bench led by Justice S Sundar.
While Justice Sundar contended with the petitioners on their right to express themselves, he also noted that their reaction has offended an employee of a public company.
Justice Sundar, however, ordered the quashing of the FIR saying the emojis, despite offending the divisional engineer, do not amount to a penal offence. Before dismissing the case, he sought an affidavit to be filed by the 46 employees, stating their expression of regret over their conduct on the official WhatsApp group. The petitioners contended with the court's order.