Category Archives: Law optional

Law and Behold

Let me apologize at the very outset for two things:

1. Twisting the original idiom, Lo and Behold, in a way that would put even Ogden Nash to shame (he’s turning in his grave as you read this), just to make the heading appealing.

2. Using a ‘z’ in place of an ‘s’ in apologize. I love Oxford commas, and detest American English and the American style of applying commas. But I cannot figure out how to change the US English settings on the computer I’m using. So imma be using American English, yo, just like Justin Bieber! But wait, isn’t he a Canadian?

So, this is about the law optional for UPSC. And I’m not a seasoned lawyer. I’m not, in fact, a lawyer. But still, I shall write this, since I guess I understand law somewhat. In fact, each one of us does. (I got decent marks, too – 251/500. So, you have to listen to my gratuitous advices at least once)

Law is not something alien. The basic crux has come from the way average people usually go about life – don’t take what’s not yours, be nice, don’t be violent and all that jazz. In fact, that’s what is mentioned in all religious books. And Hammurabi probably was the first dude who got it etched on stele. By the way, take this ‘average person’ thing very seriously; most laws assume that we are mango people.

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Law optional – International Law

International Law comes under Section B of Paper 1 and consists of four questions out of which one is mandatory.

General Comments:

At first glance, syllabus of International Law appears slightly intimidating. There are some reasons for this. First, international law syllabus is very broad compared to the IL courses taught at most law colleges, especially the three year law course. Second, it is mostly an academic subject and is not part of the syllabus for most of the entrance examination related to law and judicial examinations. Third, this subject is peculiar as it consists of part legal philosophy, part diplomacy and part practice of actors of IL.

The good part about this section is that the material is very easily available. I referred to two books for this section: International Law by Malcolm N. Shaw fifth edition (presently the book is in its sixth edition) and International Law & Human Rights, S K Kapoor, 18th edition (presently the book is in its nineteenth edition). Together, these two books cover the entire syllabus. As in Consititutional Law, only 200-300 pages from each book are relevant for the purpose of UPSC preparation.

Internet can be used to refine certain answers. Internet is full of quality material on the subject, as google search is literally not constrained by any territorial limitations. What is subject matter of IL in India, remains for most part true for rest of the world. The questions of IL are even more predictable than Constitutional Law as IL is far less dynamic. Indeed if one is really lazy about IL, one can focus on 30-35 questions and expect couple of them to come in the mains examination.

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Law optional – Constitutional and Administrative Law

This article is written by Avi Prasad, Rank 13, UPSC CSE 2013.

General Sources

One must have a source which provides topic-wise break up of Mains Examination questions asked in past years. I relied on the one published on UPSC portal which was just a compilation of previous years’ questions under different topic heads. Yet, it was a very important tool in my preparation as it gave insight into the repetitive nature of questions asked, the variations and the important areas of syllabus. It also helped me identify parts of the syllabus that have rarely been tested by UPSC. While past is no definite indicator for the future, I took the decision to focus only on the topics which have been frequently asked by UPSC. Thus, I was able to narrow down the syllabus considerably. This strategy has held me in good stead in both my successful attempts with Law.

In this entry, I will list out the books I relied upon and how they can be used upon along with additional sources. An important source is excellent case summary of important cases published by Delhi University for its LLB course. This material is available for download at DU’s website. I also read the ubiquitously called ‘Dukki’ (for those unfamiliar with the term; it is the ‘guide-book’ which is relied upon by most students of Delhi University for passing the examination held by the University). The guide-books are essentially quality notes prepared with references from multiple books. While they are very useful for some part of the syllabus, their drawback is that they don’t cover the entire syllabus. However, these can be read as a basic preparatory text. There are two major publishers/authors of Dukki – Ashok Jain and Singhal. One has to compare Dukkis for each subject to ascertain which one is better for a particular subject.

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Comments on selection of Law as an optional

This article is written by Avi Prasad, Rank 13, UPSC CSE 2013

I appeared with Law as an optional in both my attempts (Rank 171, CSE 2012 and Rank 13, CSE 2013) and owe my selection to good marks in Law papers. Further, in prelims a good number of questions are based on polity and constitution, which most law students find easy. As most of the social and economic issues are addressed through the legislative mechanism, students of law optional are at an advantage in extracting the intention, mechanism and other relevant information from the dreary language of an Act/proposed Bill.

Also important issues of governance like RTI, exercise of discretion, citizen-official interface, relationship between organs of state etc. trace their roots to administrative and constitutional law. These are all important parts of Mains syllabus for GS.

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