Pakistan's top judge on Tuesday ordered the government to allow Nawaz Sharif to return home, saying its deportation of the former prime minister in September violated an earlier court ruling.
Hundreds of Sharif's supporters clapped and shouted slogans against military ruler President Pervez Musharraf outside the Supreme Court after the move by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The judge also accused current premier Shaukat Aziz of disobeying the Supreme Court's orders when Sharif was put onto a plane to Saudi Arabia on September 10, hours after ending his seven-year exile.
Chaudhry, a thorn in the government's side since Musharraf tried to sack him earlier this year, had ruled on August 23 that Sharif had an "inalienable right" to come home and told authorities not to hinder him.
"The judgment passed by this court is very much intact... and is required to be implemented in letter and spirit," Chaudhry told the court as he adjourned a hearing on appeals against the deportation until November 8.
"There was a clear-cut violation of our judgment."
Sharif's party said earlier this month that he would make a fresh attempt to come home in November, following the return from exile on October 18 of his political rival and fellow former PM Benazir Bhutto.
The chief justice earlier expressed anger that in the days just before Sharif was sent packing, "steps were being taken to violate the orders of this court by the prime minister (Aziz)."
Musharraf has been at loggerheads with the increasingly independent court since his botched attempt in March to sack Chaudhry, a move that sparked mass protests and turned the chief justice into a democracy icon.
Sharif was the man ousted by Musharraf in October 1999. He has lived in exile in Saudi Arabia and London ever since.