NEW DELHI • Cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL) was thrown into turmoil yesterday when a Supreme Court-appointed panel suspended two of the eight teams after officials were found guilty of illegally betting on matches.
Chennai Super Kings, led by India's one-day international captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Rajasthan Royals, skippered by star Australian batsman Steve Smith, had been hoping to escape with heavy fines.
But a tribunal led by former chief justice Rajendra Mal Lodha announced that they would be banned from the next two editions of the annual six-week tournament to protect "the integrity of the game".
Gurunath Meiyappan - the son-in-law of Narayanaswami Srinivasan, the Chennai franchise owner and the current boss of the International Cricket Council - was banned for life from cricket-related activities.
A similar punishment was handed down to Raj Kundra, the co-owner of the Rajasthan team and husband of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.
"Their conduct has affected the image of the game, the players and others associated with the tournament," Lodha said while revealing the verdict of his three-member panel.
The outcome could have major financial consequences for the glitzy Twenty20 league, which draws some of the biggest names in world cricket.
It also raises questions over the future of the two franchises, who are both former champions.
It was not immediately clear whether the two franchises can be sold, thus allowing the cricketers to continue to be part of the Premier League.
There was also no immediate reaction from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
"Huge injury has been caused to the image of cricket which is a passion for millions of people," said Lodha. "They (Meiyappan and Kundra) have brought the game to disrepute.
"The purity of the game has been affected.
"Fans feel cheated and doubts abound if the IPL is clean."
Lodha was appointed head of the sentencing panel in January after the Supreme Court had found Kundra and Meiyappan guilty of betting on the outcome of matches in 2013.
The IPL, which is broadcast around the world, is hugely popular in India, with its heady mix of sport and showbusiness, with a number of the teams fronted by big Bollywood names.
But it has been continuously dogged by corruption allegations.
On Monday, Hiken Shah, a first-class player from Mumbai, was suspended over an approach he made to an unnamed team-mate before this year's tournament in April-May.