The Kerala Police on Tuesday registered a first information report after girls who appeared for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test in Kollam district were allegedly asked to take off their bras to be allowed to write the examination, reported PTI.
The police have filed the case under Indian Penal Code Sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).
The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint of the father of one of the girls who appeared for the medical admission exam at a private educational institute Kollam district’s Ayoor town on Sunday. The police said they have started an investigation and would arrest the friskers soon.
The matter came to light on Monday after the girl’s father told the media that her daughter had suffered a traumatic experience of writing the 3-hour-long examination without her bra.
In his complaint, the father of the girl said that the bulletin issued by the National Testing Agency, which conducts NEET, does not mention about a ban on bras with metal hooks, reported The News Minute.
The bulletin, however, states that the candidates are not allowed to bring “any metallic item” in the examination room.
The bulletin also states that in case the candidates are wearing “cultural/customary dress” for the examination, they should come at least an hour before the last reporting time “so that there is enough time for proper frisking without any inconvenience to the candidate while maintaining the sanctity of the examination”.
The girl’s father told The News Minute: “If it is the rule, they can check the innerwear during frisking. But why remove them? There are no such rules in the NEET bulletin.”
He said that the girl candidates could not write the exam with confidence “due to the perverted approach of a few persons”, reported The Indian Express.
“The thought that they don’t have innerwear, while sitting in a hall where boys were also writing the exam, made the girls uncomfortable,” he told The Indian Express. “Many girls said they could not concentrate on the exam. This was cruel.”
The father said that when his daughter refused to take off her bra, she was told she would not be allowed to write the exam. He alleged that other girls faced the same ordeal.
“Many students were cutting the hooks of their innerwear,” he said. “The mental state of the students was disturbed and they could not attend the exam with confidence...When students refused to remove their innerwear, they were asked whether their future or innerwear was important.”
Besides this, all the bras that were seized had been placed together in a storage room without any regard to the Covid-19 norms, according to the complaint.
Following the allegations, the National Testing Agency said on Monday that it had sought immediate response from the examination centre’s superintendent, its independent observer and the city coordinator for NEET.
“All three of them, among other things, have stated that they did not find any such incident happening in the centre,” the agency said in a statement.
The centre’s superintendent told the agency that the allegations by the complainant were fictitious and the case was filed with wrong intentions, PTI reported.
“The candidate did take the examination,” the statement of the National Testing Agency said. “There was no representation/complaint to any one during or immediately after the examination. Nor has NTA received any email/complaint in this regard.”
The spokesperson of the institute in Ayoor denied being involved in the frisking process.
“There were four persons from two agencies, one for frisking and another for recording biometric attendance,” the spokesperson said. “They were given separate areas for frisking. Neither the institute nor our staff members were involved in the frisking process.”
Meanwhile, Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu wrote to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan asking him to take action against the National Testing Agency to prevent such incidents.
“The shame and shock of this unexpected turn of events have affected the morale and composure of the students whose performance in the test was consequently affected,” she said in a letter.
This is not the first instance in the state where a student was made to strip for appearing for an examination. In 2017, four teachers were suspended for asking a girl to take off her bra before entering a NEET centre in Kannur. The Central Board of Secondary Education, which was then conducting NEET, had said the incident was a “consequence of overzealousness” of the staff members.
A year later, another candidate for an examination was forced to take off her bra in Palakkad town. In her complaint, she had said that the male invigilator was staring at her chest during the course of the examination. She had “felt humiliated” because of this violation, the complaint stated.