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The Gujarat High Court today stayed the Election Commission's (EC) directive that the polling agents appointed by the candidates in the upcoming state Assembly election should be residents of the area covered under the polling booth concerned or neighbouring booths. A division bench of justices Akil Kureshi and A Y Kogje passed an interim direction, stating that a candidate contesting the election could appoint any voter or resident from the constituency as his or her polling agent at any polling station. The court also issued notices to the EC and the chief electoral officer, Gujarat, seeking replies by December 20. The Gujarat Congress unit and the party's candidate from the Gondal constituency, Arjun Khataria, had challenged the EC's direction, contained in a handbook where the criteria for appointing polling agents were spelt out. The handbook states that the polling agents should be residents of the area covered under the polling station concerned (where they are sought to be appointed) or neighbouring polling stations. The petitioners had contended that the EC had no authority to frame such guidelines under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. This amounted to usurping of the candidate's powers to appoint polling agents of his or her choice, the petitioners had said. Gujarat will go to the polls in two phases -- on December 9 and December 14.
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