Original Article written by Cyril V Darlong Diengdoh (IAS) AIR 367/CSE_2009. I’m merely copy pasting it for the benefit of law graduates appearing in UPSC.
- Law as an optional: good /bad?
- What are the other advantages of taking law?
- Study plan: Law (optional) for UPSC Mains Examination
- Study Material
- How to cover the syllabus of Law?
- How to write the Mains Paper?
Over the course of my preparations, I have come across the notion that most law graduates prefer not to take up law as their first optional, let alone an optional for the mains. Further, queries from various law graduates like whether law was a scoring optional, has finally given my some food for thought, as a result of which here is my first blog post.
I had taken law as my first optional for the prelims and as an optional for the mains. Even I had a fair share of my doubts before taking law but they were quickly dispelled after I spoke to my seniors who had taken law and qualified with good ranks. There are good reasons on why law graduates should take up law, and I would like to clarify some of the issues regarding the same and the reasons why I took law.
The most important reason to take law is because you have studied law in your graduation. No matter how badly you may have done or how well, the important point to remember is that you have a foundation in law and at least some sort of conceptual understanding for most of the topics. This is a very important aspect many students ignore while choosing some other subject, because the next question is: if not law what else? Is there a better alternative? For me, I could not think of any other subject other than law because I felt that the five year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) course, provided me a good foundation in law. Even though I enjoyed humanities subjects like sociology or history, I felt that I was stronger placed in law compared to these subjects, on the basis of which I could decide on law an optional. Hence a lot of time may be wasted in trying to understand the basics of a new subject, which could have been better utilised in revisiting law and studying it from the civil service exams perspective (as opposed to trying to build a foundation in a new subject). I prepared law on my own and did not take up coaching. I only enrolled for a law test series for the mains.
Further, for the Prelims, the law syllabus is well defined and not very vast. There are six topics and only jurisprudence is not common to the mains syllabus. Hence, it made sense to take law because it is scoring and most of the topics covered in the prelims would also be covered in the mains.
[Ed. optional subjects were removed from prelims since introduction of CSAT in 2011]
There is a misconception that law is not scoring. There are many who make it to the merit list with law as an optional. It is true that law is not a popular optional say unlike geography or public administration. But this is because only law graduates would choose law. Thus the low numbers of persons taking law should not lead to the conclusion that is not very popular, and hence not scoring. Many who are pursuing a three year LL.B. degree in law after their graduation may also opt for another subject or their subject of graduation, which may explain why many law graduates do not take law. However, the success rate of persons with law over the last few years would suggest that law has as good, if not better success rate compared to other subjects.
The latest annual report of the UPSC for 2008-09 published on the website shows that law has a success rate of 5%. This is good considering the fact that most subjects which had around 200-300 students appearing for that subject in the mains (law had 280 persons in 2008), had a success rate of around 5-6%. Even most popular subjects like public administration and geography had a success rate of 8.4% and 6.9% respectively. Hence it is no more or no less scoring than any other optional, provided you work hard for it and follow the right strategy. Even though the exception proves the rule, one can take encouragement from the fact that one of the highest scores for law secured by a successful candidate has been 389, obtained as recently as in the 2008 mains exam.
Another reason many maybe dissuaded is that the syllabus for mains is vast. I would agree that the syllabus is vast but at the same time it is manageable. Also like I said before, one has to approach this issue in context of other subjects. Hence, when compared to studying a new subject, the vast syllabus of law would become manageable given the fact that more time may be spent in studying, analysing past year papers, making notes and learning, all with a view to cracking the exams. Further although it is advisable to cover all the topics equally well as the exam papers try and cover all portions of the syllabus, analysing past years papers, the syllabus and the way questions are divided section wise in both the papers, would suggest that a focussed approach makes the syllabus much more manageable.
Most people are dissuaded because of the number of cases and sections from bare acts that one has to remember. How does one remember so much? This is a problem faced by many. I faced this dilemma because five years can be a long time. I had forgotten many of the topics like constitutional law and contracts, which I had done in the first two years of law school.
I was also overwhelmed by the fact that I had to memorize so many sections of the IPC or Contract Act, being so used to open book exams. The only way out is thorough study and constant revision, which is greatly enhanced if notes are prepared. While I agree that it is not easy to remember so much at one go, making notes and revising them, would over a period of time ensure that you have the important sections and case law at your fingertips.
I must admit that for most of the topics, especially constitutional law, I enjoyed learning again (in most cases learning for the first time!). As I started reading books like V.N. Shukla and the Constitution Bare Act, I realized that I missed a lot during law school. This discovery of the nuances of the constitution made me realize that it is very beautifully and meticulously written document which really makes sense.
So, if you like law and like reading law, I would definitely recommend that you take law as an optional. While it is important to study law from the point of view of cracking the exam and scoring good marks, enjoying the process, would help sustain your interest and motivation, over a long period of time, which this exam demands.
- Take law because you already have a conceptual understanding and a foundation. This way you do not waste time figuring out a new subject, and spend your time more fruitfully towards cracking the law paper getting a good score. Since you have to take another optional subject anyway, you can balance your time accordingly and give more attention to learning one new subject, compared to two.
- No matter what optional you choose, you have to work hard anyway, so you may as well work hard towards something that you enjoy reading (if not for all the topics in law at least a substantial amount of the syllabus).
The syllabus can be managed with a good strategy and careful analysis of past years question papers.
- Overlap between the Constitutional Law syllabus (Paper I) and the Polity portion of the General Studies Paper I. Even recently added topics on ‘Contemporary Legal Developments’ for Law Paper II, like Right to Information, Competition law and IPR are relevant and could be asked in the General Studies papers.
- Even though one may choose different subjects, a law graduate may be asked questions on law during the time of the interview. So it makes sense to be in touch with all the legal provisions, especially constitutional law. I had read an interview of a candidate (a law graduate) who had not taken law as an optional but was asked many questions on law during the interview.
The syllabus for the law (main) is huge and it does require great deal of effort to cover the entire syllabus. Gone are the days when one could cover 75-80% of the syllabus and still secure decent marks. One may keep following points in minds while preparing and answering the law paper:
I referred to following materials in the course of my preparation:
- Constitution: V.N.Shukla (For Admin Law portion refer to S.P.Sathe/articles from journals)
- International Law: Starke (for contemporary topics like terrorism which are not mentioned in Starke you can refer also refer to S.K. Kapoor as a supplementary text)
- Law of Crimes: Gaur
- Contract-Avatar Singh
- Recent Legal Developments- Internet and various legal journals like JILI, Supreme Court Journal, etc.
Reading aforementioned books is necessary but not sufficient. These books will not cover the entire syllabus and therefore, you might need to look at other books/articles as well to cover the areas not covered in these books. However, read them well to get the conceptual clarity.
- Constitutionalism: Refer to M.P. Jain and also pub ad material on the same (Mohanty’s printed material has a page or two on constitutionalism)
- PIL; Legal Aid; Legal Services Authority: For PIL refer to the posts on the blog www.lawandotherthings.blogspot.com. For Legal Aid and Legal Services Authority refer to the website of the National Legal Service Authority and also relevant pages from the India Year Book.
- Eminent domain – State property – common property – community property. (V.N.Shukla has a page on eminent domain. Could not find material on State, Common and Community property.)
- Legislative powers, privileges and immunities. Refer to M.P. Jain for detailed analysis of this topic and also read the SC judgment in Raja Ram Pal v The Hon''Ble Speaker, Lok Sabha dated January 10, 2007
- Principles of natural justice – Emerging trends and judicial approach, Delegated legislation and its constitutionality, Judicial review of administrative action: Refer to Sathe on Administrative law. Also look for the relevant articles from JILI, Supreme Court Journal etc.
- Separation of powers and constitutional governance: Read articles from the net.
- Ombudsman: Lokayukta, Lokpal etc.: Refer to the relevant report of the Second Administrative Reform Commission.
- Please read the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution’s Report (Available on Ministry of Law’s website), the Annual Report of the Supreme Court (Available on the SC’s Website) reports of the Standing Committee of the Parliament on the Law and Justice (Contents of some of which might be available in newspapers and magazines), Law Commission of India’s Report-101, 195, 214 etc.
- Read the complete judgment delivered in some of the landmark cases (Maneka Gandhi, Express Newspaper Ltd, R. Rajgopal, Santosh Bariyar, S.R. Bommai, Raja Ram Pal etc. etc.) You do not have to read all the individual judgments. Just read one of the majority judgments and the head notes for the case.
In addition to I also relied on readings (which were compilation of some excellent articles) from the college days. Some of which are as follows:
- The Identity of International Law: Rosalyn Higgins
- Recognition in Theory and Practice: Ian Brownlie
- Recognition of States, Int’l and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol. 41, p.473
- Status of Treaties in Domestic Legal Systems: John H. Jackson, The American Journal of International Law, Vol.86, p.310.
- India’s Policy of Recognition of States and Governments: K.P.Mishra, The American Journal of International Law, Vol.55, p.398.
- Int’l Law and the use of force by States: Ian Brownlie, OUP
- The Right of States to Use Armed Forces: Oscar Schachter, Michigan Law Review, Vol.82, Nos. 5 & 6, April/May 1984
- On Prohibition of Force and Self Defense . you can also look at the relevant pages (pp.108-121 and 661-678) from the book The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, Ed; Bruno Simma, OUP, New York, 199.
The Position of the Individual in International Law: Alexander Orkahelashvili, 31 California Western International Law Journal 241.
For topic mentioned below relied a lot on the information from the internet. Please go through the UN website very well to gather information about UN, its organs, reforms, terrorism etc. You can also look at website of the International Criminal Court, for latest developments and also have an idea of the latest issues surrounding some of these international bodies. For example, the question on the International Criminal Court asked in the 2009 Mains, was not entirely legal, but also pertained to the broad theme of international affairs, as very specific questions were asked on functioning of the court, the drawbacks and the amendments to the Regulations. Hence questions are of a very contemporary nature for some of the topics for which the best source is the internet.
• United Nations: Its principal organs, powers, functions and reform.
• Legality of the use of nuclear weapons; ban on testing of nuclear weapons; Nuclear – non proliferation treaty, CTBT. ( For Legality of the use of nuclear weapons, please read ICJ’s judgment in full)
• International terrorism, state sponsored terrorism, hijacking, international criminal court. (FOR ICC, I read two articles which were part of my college reading. Am unable to locate them now. Will put up their citation as soon as I find them)
• New international economic order and monetary law: WTO, TRIPS, GATT, IMF, World Bank.
• Protection and improvement of the human environment: International efforts.
• Fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law: You can refer to the chapter in Malcolm Shaw.
• Kinds of punishment and emerging trends as to abolition of capital punishment: read the related posts on the blog www.lawandotherthings.blogspot.com.
• Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988: Read the Bare Act well.
• Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and subsequent legislative developments: Read the Bare Act well.
• Plea bargaining: Cr.P.C amendments incorporating the Plea bargaining provisions in India, Law Commission Report and one or two article on the same from the net.
- You may also have a look at the Law Commission’s 156th Report on the IPC.
• False Imprisonment: Refer to the Winfield for this topic.
• Consumer Protection Act: Read the Bare Act well and also Bangia’s commentary.
• E-Contract: From internet.
• Insurance: Did not prepare.
• Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881: Did not prepare.
• Sale of Goods: Bare Act + DU Law Duggi (guide)
• Hire Purchase: Law Commission’s 168th report.
• Formation and dissolution of Partnership: Bare Act + DU Law Duggi (guide) + Law Commission’s 7th report.
• Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996: Bare Act + DU Law Duggi (guide)
- You may also have a look at the Law Commission’s Report on the Contract Act.
• Read mostly from the net. Look at Law Commission’s 200th Report on “Trial by Media”.
• For some of the topics like Competition, Intellectual Property Rights, Right to Information Act, you can refer to some of the important sections of the bare acts.
• Since some of the topics mention that the concepts/types/prospects are being tested, you should be familiar with some of the important concepts, for eg. Polluter pays in environmental law.
- You must aim to cover almost everything mentioned in the syllabus. UPSC is not sticking to the broad area wise division while clubbing two or more questions into one. For example: There could be three questions of 20 marks each from topics as varied as Plea Bargaining, Negotiable Instruments Act and the Competition Act.
- The 60 markers in paper II are not single question but always an unusual combination of 2 or 3 questions from IPC/Contract/Recent Legal Developments etc. This makes life very tough because if you don’t prepare for everything, it is likely that you might not be able to answer every part of the question. For example, if you decide to skip negotiable instruments act and sale of goods act, it might just happen that the questions from these areas are asked not as part of a single question but in combination with other areas (say contract/recent legal developments).
- This can land you in trouble because with your selective preparation you can answer only part of a question and this could happen for more than one question.
- It is unusual on the part of the UPSC to repeat the last year questions the very next year. But it did so for the main 2009. Many of us did not prepare for the topics from which questions had already been asked in the main 2008 (For example indemnity and guarantee, IT Laws etc.).
- However, to our complete surprise UPSC repeated the questions from these topics in the main 2009 as well. This was surprising considering there were several recently added topics in the syllabus from where they could have asked the questions.
- Preparing an area comprehensively is no guarantee that one would be able to answer all possible questions from that area. In paper I, you might focus more on constitutional law/international law depending on your area of interest but I would still advice you to cover the entire syllabus of both.
- You might have a genuine interest in the constitutional law and might have studied hard for it, but that is no guarantee that you would be able to answer all the questions. For instance, I prepared well for the constitutional law but in the exam except for the compulsory question, I just answered only 1 question from the constitutional law as opposed to my earlier plan of answering 2 questions from there and 1 from the IL. I would have been in real trouble had I not prepared reasonably well for the IL as well.
Always see yourself as the salesman (of your answers) who is out there to satisfy the toughest customer (i.e. the examiner). Your answers have to be different from the rest and you will have to walk the extra mile to get extra marks from the examiner. You may keep following things in mind while writing the answer:
• Cases and Statutory provisions are a must and you must write them wherever needed. However, you answer should not look like a compilation of case list. Write only the landmark ones and write them in BLOCK CAPITAL so that it does not escape the examiner’s eyes.
• Quote wisely from the Commission/Committee’s (esp. law commission) reports and underline them. For example in the main 2009 there was a question on the fundamental duties. In my answer I mentioned very briefly the recommendations of
- Swarn Singh Committee;
- The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution; (“NCRW”)
- Justice Verma Committee on operationalization of Fundamental duties.
Wherever possible refer to the practices in other legal system (especially that of U.S and U.K.) and show the differences/similarity between them and us
Write in points for the question which has several parts to it and for every part you have plenty to write. For example the question on recognition and succession last year has many parts to it. I wrote the entire question in points. Remember the Golden rule: write in points whenever you are running short of time.
Keep yourself updated and mention the recent significant judgments/pending amendment bills etc. etc. in your answer. The Hindu’s legal reporting is quite good and also keep going back to the blog “Law and other Things” for the recent legal developments. Frontline also covers articles on recent level developments, especially those by V.Venkatesan. For example, if there were to be a question on trial by media last year, I would have definitely quoted SC’s judgment in the case of R.K. Anand (NDTV Sting operation) that came just before the main last year.