The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday took suo motu cognisance of reports that candidates for the constable’s post in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district were labelled with their castes on their chests during a medical examination.

The human rights panel sent notices to the state police chief and the chief secretary of the Madhya Pradesh government, and gave them four weeks to submit a report with details on action taken against the officers involved.

On Sunday, the state police had ordered an inquiry into the reports after photos showed candidates bare-chested with markings such as “SC”, “ST” and “O” – Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes – in black on their bodies.

The NHRC observed that the caste categories were marked on the chests of only reserved-category candidates. “Reportedly, the caste stamps were used to avoid any kind of confusion among candidates,” it said. “However, candidates from the general category were not labeled.”

Director General of Police Rishi Kumar Shukla had earlier said the candidates should not have been labelled in such a manner. However, he added that there was no bad intention behind the move. “It was done as a precautionary measure to ensure that there was transparency in the laid down norms for physical measurements of these categories,” he had said.

Criteria for clearing the medical examination, such as height and chest measurements, vary for different categories of candidates.

The NHRC pointed out the “discriminatory and derogatory treatment” for reserved-category candidates, and said such incidents could not be tolerated “under any circumstances in a civilised society”. It is “tantamount to violation of right to equality and dignity”, the panel said.