LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday suspended an ECP notification and declared that a polling agent could be appointed from any constituency.

The ECP had announced that polling agents for today’s by-elections shall be the voters of the respective constituencies. It said no candidate shall appoint any polling agent from outside the constituency.

PTI’s Punjab President Dr Yasmin Rashid had challenged the notification through a writ petition. The petitioner’s counsel argued that the ECP had unlawfully announced the condition for polling agents.

Asked about past practice, the counsel said there was no such restriction on polling agents in the past.

Justice Shahid Jamil Khan obse­rved that polling agents had certain responsibilities to discharge on the day of election. He said polling agents from the same constituency had the advantage of identifying voters.

However, the petitioner’s counsel argued that it was not necessary under the law to appoint polling agents from the same constituency.

The ECP counsel argued that the decision was taken to avoid any violence on polling day. He said there would be a likelihood of violence if voters from outside the constituencies were allowed to join the election activity as polling agents.

The judge, however, rejected the notion and observed that the voters of other constituencies were not “aliens”. The judge observed that the impugned notification was suspended temporarily and the ECP was free to make new rules for the appointment of the polling agents after the July 17 by-polls.

Advocate Ahmad Awais, a senior member of the petitioners’ legal team, undertook that peace shall be maintained if the administration was also directed to remain within the sphere of law and implement the judgement of the apex court.

The judge directed the advocate general of Punjab to ensure that directions by the apex court and this court, to police and civil administration, shall be followed and complied with in letter and spirit.

“The administration shall respond to polling officer’s direction, general/special powers, if any attempt or act of disrupting the election process is brought to their notice,” the judge said in the order.

“Any instance of breach of undertaking, by petitioner’s political party, shall also be taken as contempt of court, if formally brought before this court,” the order concluded.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2022

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