A Bathinda court has acquitted former Agriculture Director Dr. Mangal Singh Sandhu in a 2015 corruption case related to the Punjab pesticide scam. The case involved allegations that Sandhu was involved in the purchase of pesticides not recommended by the Punjab Agricultural University at prices much higher than what was prevailing in the market.
The scam cost the Punjab government more than Rs 650 crore in compensation to the affected farmers, following the white-fly attack on cotton in 2015. This also resulted in farm suicides in the cotton belt.
Sandhu was named in the FIR after a pesticides dealer, Vijay Kumar, who had been arrested on charges of supplying spurious pesticides, alleged that he had paid a bribe of Rs 8 lakh to Sandhu. However, the police allegedly failed to establish who gave the bribe or recover the bribe money from Sandhu. Nirankar Singh, then Joint Director, of Agriculture, and Ankush Goyal, a pesticide supplier, were also acquitted in the case.
Sandhu served as Joint Director, Agriculture, and his retirement was due on April 30, 2014, but he was given two extensions of one year each until April 30, 2016. On his extension, he was posted as officiating Agriculture Director. However, after the controversy, he was relieved from services on March 31, 2016.
While Sandhu was acquitted for lack of evidence, accused Vijay Kumar and Shubam Goyal, partners of a pesticide dealer company, were sentenced to two years imprisonment each. The order was passed on March 31, and it was uploaded on April 5.