Islamabad : Pakistan's Supreme Court Friday reinstated Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in a judgement that was seen as a major blow to President Pervez Musharraf.
Justice Kalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, heading a 13-member bench, in a short order declared the presidential reference illegal, ultra vires the constitution and without lawful authority, the Online news agency reported.
Hundreds of lawyers chanted "Go, Musharraf go, Live long CJP" slogans soon after the verdict was announced at around 4 p.m.
Justice Ramday said the chief justice had been reinstated from March 9. Ten of the total 13 judges favoured quashing of charges against the top judge.
DPA adds: Scenes of jubilation among hundreds of Chaudhry's supporters were witnessed outside the court, which set aside as "illegal" the reference moved against him by Musharraf on the recommendation of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Musharraf suspended the chief justice on March 9 over allegations of "misconduct and misuse of authority," but the government Monday retracted charges of judicial misconduct that accused Chaudhry of putting out written verdicts that varied from his verbal orders.
One of Chaudhry's counsels, Tariq Mehmood, told reporters on the court premises that: "Today is the most important day after the country gained independence in 1947."
In his statement on the critical court decision, Shaukat Aziz said people should accept the ruling like a mature nation.
"The coming months are crucial for a democratic and economically vibrant Pakistan, therefore, attention should be focused on elections that will take place by the year end in accordance with the schedule," state-run Pakistan television quoted Aziz as saying.
Opposition parties in Pakistan have been rallying with the lawyers' fraternity since the judicial crisis took the country by surprise and have seized the opportunity to launch a countrywide campaign against the rule of President Musharraf.
"After this decision, Musharraf has no right to remain in power and he should step down voluntarily," Liaquat Baloch, a senior leader of the Muttahida Majlis-I-Amal religious alliance said.
The opposition had been claiming that the president ousted Chaudhry in a bid to end any possible judicial hindrance to his re-election by the present parliament in next few months.
However, Musharraf repeatedly said that his move was a purely legal and constitutional issue, and he was bound to take this step.