Nepal has imposed a 10-year mountaineering ban on two climbers who claimed to be the first Indian couple to have climbed Everest, officials say.
A government investigation concluded on Monday that photographs purporting to show the pair at the top of the world’s highest mountain were faked.
Officials say the ban is intended to deter other climbers from making spurious and dishonest claims.
The pair’s claims to have reached the peak in May were queried by climbers.
The argued that photos showing Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod at the summit were obviously doctored.
Nepal’s tourism department initially certified their ascent but has now rescinded that decision after conducting an investigation.
Tourism department chief Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal told the AFP news agency that an analysis of photos submitted by Mr and Mrs Rathod revealed they had superimposed themselves and their banners on photos taken by another Indian climber who conquered Everest.
“Despite several attempts to get clarifications from them, they did not co-operate with us during the investigation. The two Sherpas that assisted them are also absconding,” Mr Dhakal said.
“The ban should serve as a warning for mountaineers to follow ethics.”
Mr and Mrs Rathod – who work as constables in the western Indian city of Pune – in July denied the claims, as did the guides who climbed with them.
But a climber based in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Satyarup Sidhantha, later told reporters that the photographs presented by the Rathods as “proof” of their climb actually belonged to him.
Suspicions were further aroused because of the time lag between the day the Rathods claimed to have reached the summit and their news conference announcing their achievement.
It was alleged that the couple could not possibly have reached the summit so soon after they were seen to have arrived at the base camp, and that the photos appeared to show them in two different sets of clothes and boots while on the climb.
Many of those who have succeeded in scaling the 8,848m (29,029ft) mountain have subsequently gone on to have lucrative careers as motivational speakers and authors.
More than 450 people, including more than 250 foreigners, climbed Everest during the recently-concluded spring season. It followed two consecutive years of poor weather – made worse by the Nepal earthquake of 2015 – which resulted in almost all Everest attempts being abandoned.
Mountaineering is a major source of income for impoverished Nepal and this year’s succession of successful summits is expected to provide the industry with a major fillip.