A High Court in India is demanding to know why more than 1,150 army recruitment candidates were forced to strip down to their underwear for a written exam on Sunday in the eastern state of Bihar.
An Agence France-Presse photo from Sunday shows rows of army hopefuls sitting in their undergarments on the grass, hunched over test papers as supervisors look on. The candidates were being evaluated to determine their eligibility for technical, clerical and general duty positions in the army.
According to local media reports, army officials ordered the candidates to remove their clothes as a way to "save time on frisking so many people" to ensure they weren't cheating.
The surprising image comes after another viral photo from the same region circulated online just a year ago.
That photograph showed parents climbing the walls of school buildings to help students cheat by passing notes through the window, leading to hundreds of academic expulsions. The students were taking their 10th-grade exams, which determine whether they can continue their education. For many families in the state, education offers a way to break the cycle of poverty, making parents desperate to help their kids do well.
The scandal prompted the Bihar government to introduce a fine of 20,000 rupees (about $296) against cheating students.
Intense job and school-related pressure in Bihar has prompted other incidents of academic dishonesty in the state. In 2013, Bihar education officials expelled some 1,600 cheating students, many of whom also received prohibited help from their parents. One year earlier, nearly 80 people in Bihar were jailed for exam fraud involving mobile phones.
Army sources have maintained that Sunday's disrobing was only an effort to ensure academic integrity, but some examinees said the precaution made them feel uncomfortable.
“We do not expect to appear for such large-scale examinations in halls, but telling us to remove our clothes was not dignified,” one candidate told the Indian Express.
Local lawyer Dinu Kumar presented news clippings and images to the Patna High Court, suggesting the examination was undignified and insensitive. The court responded by issuing a notice to the army on Tuesday, calling for an explanation.
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar also spoke out on Tuesday, demanding a report on the exam conduct from Army Chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag.