“A cartoon face with joy, but tears in the eyes”, more commonly known as the LOL emoji, recently garnered the attention of the Madras High Court, when it was called upon to decide a criminal complaint filed against 46 employees of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)..The complaint was filed against the employees for spamming a WhatsApp group with the emoji denoting a face with tears of joy..A petition to quash this complaint was heard by Justice SS Sundar at the Madurai Bench. The complainant was another BSNL employee, who had posted a video of customers speaking of their grievances regarding BSNL coverage, in a BSNL WhatsApp group..Perceiving this post as an attempt to degrade their efficiency, the 46 accused retaliated by posting the smileys en masse..To their misfortune, the complainant filed a criminal complaint against all of them, listing out offences under the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015..The Court, however, did not find any offence to be made out, although the case did prompt a discussion what the emoji in question actually means..While the petitioners stuck to vaguely submitting that the emoticons simply expressed their feelings, the complainant appears to have found a more sinister connotation in the posted smileys. As noted in the order,.“It is the contention of the learned counsel appearing for the second respondent that lots of smileys have definite meaning and the face with tears of joy was to convey hatred and to humiliate the second respondent.”.It was the complainant’s case that the accused posted the smileys, being “a most annoying smiley”, in an attempt to humiliate her, owing to which she was put to mental agony..In their defence, the petitioners argued that the posting of crying smiley faces were to express their feelings in response to video footage and that it is not intended to harm the individual..Besides, it was pointed out that departmental proceedings initiated by the complainant bore no fruit, with the authorities finding that there was no prima facie basis for the complaint..Justice Sundar also gave his two cents on the significance of WhatsApp emoticons, qua freedom of speech and expression thus,.“Everyone has a right to express their feelings and share their idea. The face of crying smiley is to comment about the idea of second respondent in publishing or uploading a video of complaints made by BSNL customers regarding deficiencies in BSNL coverage. Every person has got indefeasible right to express what he feels.”.Ultimately, the judge turned peacemaker. Noting that the petitioners ought not to have indulged in posting such emojis in a WhatsApp group formed to promote team spirit, he asked them to apologize to the complainant so that the matter does not escalate further. Accordingly, the petitioners submitted an affidavit expressing regret for their actions..The criminal complaints filed were found to be devoid of merit and therefore quashed..Read Order below:.Image taken from here.