Sri Lanka reinstates impeached chief justice

Sri Lanka's former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake (centre) is greeted by lawyers at the Supreme Court complex in Colombo on Jan 28, 2015, after new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reinstated her, saying that her controversial sacking b
Sri Lanka's former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake (centre) is greeted by lawyers at the Supreme Court complex in Colombo on Jan 28, 2015, after new Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reinstated her, saying that her controversial sacking by the previous administration two years ago was illegal. -- PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's new president on Wednesday restored the country's former chief justice after she was controversially impeached by the previous administration.

Lawyers welcomed Shirani Bandaranayake with bouquets of flowers when she went to the Supreme Court in Colombo after receiving the news.

A government official who asked not to be named said President Maithripala Sirisena had written to Ms Bandaranayake to say her 2013 impeachment was unconstitutional and she should return to work.

"The chief justice was restored and the imposter was asked to go," said the official, referring to Mohan Peiris, who was appointed to the role by former president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Mr Sirisena had vowed in his election manifesto to restore Ms Bandaranayake, who was sacked after her judgements went against Mr Rajapakse's regime.

Despite a chorus of criticism at home and abroad, he appointed Mr Peiris, the government's senior legal adviser, as her replacement.

Ms Bandaranayake's sacking was widely criticised, with the the UN Human Rights Council calling it an assault on judicial independence.

Since Mr Rajapakse's dramatic defeat at the January 8 elections, Mr Peiris had been under pressure to stand down after he was implicated in an alleged coup attempt to keep the former leader in power.

Police have opened a criminal investigation into claims that the defeated strongman tried to use military force and that Mr Peiris was trying to provide legal justification for him to stay on in office.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Peiris.