New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: An order to a student to remove her bra at a medical college entrance examination led to action on Tuesday, with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) asking the principal in the Kerala school where the incident took place to apologise to her.

The directive for the apology came after CBSE chairman R.K. Chaturvedi met Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi today. Four Kerala teachers were also suspended for what the CBSE called an “overzealous" act.

Examination officials at a school in Ernakulam in Kerala were booked for allegedly trimming the shirt sleeves of a student as part of the CBSE’s steps to curb cheating in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), held on 7 May.

The CBSE, which conducts the examination at over 1,900 centres across India for admission to undergraduate medical and dentistry courses, however defended the stringent dress code it had imposed. It was a measure to “secure the sanctity" of the high- stake examination in which 11 lakh students vie for 95000 seats, it said.

“The incident reported in Kannur is unfortunate and a consequence of the overzealousness of a few persons involved in the process. However, the inconvenience caused to the students inadvertently in the process is regretted by the Board," CBSE spokesperson Rama Sharma said in New Delhi.

Sharma said the principal had been asked to apologise to the candidate who was made to remove her bra and added that the Board would “sensitise" the frisking staff at exam centres to prevent such incidents.

There were reports of students’ long sleeves being cut off at examination centres, candidates being asked to take off their shoes and of a girl student being ordered to change out of her jeans as they had pockets with metal buttons.

But the student in Kerala being asked to remove her bra triggered widespread outrage, leading to a political outcry in the state assembly and the suspension of four Kannur teachers.

Jamaluddin K, principal of TISK English Medium school, one of the NEET centres, told PTI that the teachers had been suspended pending an inquiry though he was yet to receive any complaint.

The issue found angry echo in the Kerala assembly with both the treasury and opposition benches condemning it.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he would bring the matter to the Centre’s notice and that the police had been asked to examine the incidents.

A furious leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, said the CBSE norms were “an insult to humanity".

The stripping of students and using metal detectors for physical examination were “cruel, inhuman and insulting" and created mental pressures on the students, he added.

The Kerala child rights commission has sought a detailed report from the CBSE within 10 days, while the Kerala Human Rights Commission registered a suo motu case against the education board and demanded a high-level probe.

To prevent any kind of cheating by candidates in the examination, the CBSE had asked students to bring only their admit cards along with the required documents. The don’ts included big buttons, brooches and heeled shoes for female candidates and kurta-pyjama, full-sleeve shirts and shoes for male candidates. The candidates were also not allowed to carry electronic devices inside the exam centre.

“Candidates were repeatedly instructed through the website, information bulletins, printed instructions on admit cards and individual communication through emails and SMSs about the steps to be taken before entering the exam centres in the high-value and high-stake examination," the CBSE spokesperson said.