Why Judges Break The Nib of Their Pen? | Death Sentence

Why Judges Break The Nib of Their Pen | Death Sentence

Why do judges break the nib of their pen in the courtroom after giving a death sentence to a convict?

Since the time of the British Rule, the custom of breaking the nib after awarding a death sentence has been followed by Indian judges. But do you know why they do it?

There is more than one reason why a judge resorts to this action after he/she has passed the judgment.

Why does a judge break the nib after a death sentence?

Breaking the nib is a symbolic act. It is done so that the pen which signed the person's life away will never be used to do that ever again.

A death sentence, in principle, is a last resort action in dealing with extremely anti-social acts that cannot be resolved in any other way.

Why Judges Break The Nib of Their Pen | Death Sentence

The nib is broken to do away with the 'tainted' pen (having ordered the death of a person). Perhaps it is done by the judge as a way of distancing himself/herself from the judgment and the guilt of the same.

Judges have no powers to review/revoke the judgment or order once it has been written and signed. Therefore the nib is also broken so that the judge may not think of reviewing his own judgment (no second, third thoughts)

As an old saying goes: The death sentence is sad, but the sometimes necessary thing and breaking the pen used to carry it out expresses that sorrow.


The judge, who took less than three minutes to deliver the quantum of sentence, broke the nib of the pen after signing the 20-page order and retired to his chamber. Breaking the nib of the pen which is used to sign the order delivering death sentence has been a tradition since the days of British governance in India.