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Why Judges Break The Nib of Their Pen After Passing a Death Sentence ?

Avik Chakravorty
This blog throws light on the symbolic breaking of the nib of the pen by the judges and why it's customary when a death sentence in India is decreed.

Ever since the British Raj, it's customary for Indian judges to snap the nib after a death sentence has been proclaimed. However, it's doubtful as to how many people are aware of the purpose of or reason behind the custom. There are several reasons for a judge resorting to such action after passing the judgment.


Why this practice is in effect in courtrooms?

There is symbolism in the breaking of the nib of a pen and the message conveyed through this symbolic act is that the pen that was used to decree capital punishment would never be used to decree similar punishment ever again.   


Fundamentally, a death sentence in India is an extreme action taken as a response to radical anti-social activities that are unresolvable otherwise.  


The symbolism of a broken nib of a pen is that the pen is tainted by the judge decreeing that a person be thrown to the gallows so to speak intends to get rid of it by snapping the nib.

Judges probably snap the nib of a pen that they use to sign a person’s life away so as to distance himself/herself from the guilt feeling of decreeing capital punishment.

Judges can neither review nor revoke once the judgment is in writing and has been signed. Hence, the nib is snapped to prevent the judge from having any second thoughts about his/her own judgment. 


It's sad to throw someone to the gallows or take someone’s life also known as capital punishment, but it's necessary occasionally and snapping the nib of the pen used to decree the death sentence is an expression of grief. A death sentence is a capital punishment that breaks the heart of a judge signing someone’s life away. Hence the symbolic snapping of the nib of the pen used by the judge to proclaim the death sentence as an expression of sorrow and guilt feeling.


Click here to connect to Vidhikarya’s registered expert criminal lawyers for further legal advice in this regard. 

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