1. Prologue
  2. Repeated Qs. from official sample paper!
  3. Section 1: theory/definitions [125m]
    1. #1: Term/Definition based questions (35m)
    2. #2: Personal opinion/Experience based (40m)
    3. #3: Quote Based Questions (50m)
  4. Section-B Case Studies [125m]
    1. Case#1: RTI: To hide or not to hide (20m|250w)
    2. Case#2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline (20m|250w)
    3. Case#3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi (25m|300w)
    4. Case#4: Nepotism in Job recruitment (20m|250w)
    5. Case#5: Leaking information
    6. Case#6: Sexual Harassment (20m|250w)
  5. GS4 Ethics Question Paper: Original Scan / Hindi Medium
  6. Bogus marketing propaganda


  • For UPSC Mains-2013 Question pears: GS1 click me; for GS2 click me; GS3 click me; GS4 given here.
  • In this Ethics paper, UPSC didn’t follow uniform word length rule (i.e. 1 mark=20 words). Instead, for some questions 10 marks=150 words, for others 200 words and so on. There is one case study even requiring 300 words for 25 marks.
  • Although question paper had section (A) and section (B). All questions compulsory.
  • 6 case studies worth total 125 marks, meaning half of the paper is case studies.
  • No “theoretical” mumbo-jumbo about Socrates or plato’s world view etc. UPSC simply gave quotes and asked you to write about. So in a way just another set of essays.
  • And here too, Gandhi prem continues just like the Essay Paper– This time, his quote related to sustainable development.

Repeated Qs. from official sample paper!

In August 2013, UPSC had released a sample paper on Ethics, click me. From that paper, UPSC directly lifted some question worth ~50 marks. Observe:

sample paper Mains 2013 paper marks
case study: sexual harassment victim lady gives you written complaint Similar case but instead of giving written complaint, she resigns from the job itself. 20
write on following terms

  1. Spirit of service
  2. Commitment
  3. Perseverance
  4. Intellectual integrity
following terms:

  1. Spirit of service
  2. Commitment
  3. perseverance
  4. Integrity
Indicate two more attributes which you consider very important for public servants. Justify your answer. Indicate two more attributes which you consider very important for “public service”. Justify your answer 10
What do you understand by ‘Ethical Human Conduct’? In what way is it important to be ethical along with being professionally competent? What do you understand by ‘values’ and ‘ethics’? In what way is it important to be ethical along with being professionally competent? 10
total out of 250 52 marks

Thus, ~20% of the paper is repeat questions. And, If we drag the decision making case studies from CSAT prelim papers, let’s see how it evolves:

prelim case study/decision making Mains 2013 Case studies marks
prelim 2013:You’re setting up university paper- and your colleague wants to leak it for his son. This colleague gave favours earlier. You work in finance ministry and know some secret information. A contractor wants this info, and he has done good job for government earlier. 20
Prelim 2011, 2012: multiple case studies involving ‘project deadlines’. one of the option would involve “escape by reporting sick” Similar “deadline” issue here: the only new catch is that you found flyover is defective quality but juntaa wants is quickly opened, to reduce traffic congestion. Here too you’re given option to “report sick.” 20

in other words, 3 out of the 6 case studies are within  familiar areas.

Anyways, let’s see the paper:


Section 1: theory/definitions [125m]

#1: Term/Definition based questions (35m)

  1. What do you understand by ‘values’ and ‘ethics’? In what way is it important to be ethical along with being professionally competent? (10 marks | 150 words)
  2. What do you understand by the following terms in the context of public service? (5 terms x 3 marks each=15 marks |250 words)
    1. Integrity
    2. Perseverance
    3. Spirit of service
    4. Commitment
    5. Courage of conviction
  3. What is ’emotional intelligence’ and how can it be developed in people? How does it help an individual in taking ethical decisions? (10 marks | 150 words)

#2: Personal opinion/Experience based (40m)

  1. Indicate two more** attributes which you consider important for public service. Justify your answer. (10 marks |100 words) [(**other than those five earlier mentioned- integrity, perseverance etc.)
  2. Some people feel that values keep changing with time and situation, while others strongly believe that there are certain universal and eternal human values. Give your perception in this regard with due justification. (10 marks | 150 words)
  3. What do you understand by the term ‘voice of conscience’? How do you prepare yourself to heed to the voice of conscience? (10 marks| 150 words)
  4. What is meant by ‘crisis of conscience’? Narrate one incident in your life when you were faced with such a crisis and how you resolved the same. (10 marks| 150 words)

#3: Quote Based Questions (50m)

  1. Given below are three quotations of great moral thinkers/philosophers. For each of these quotations, bring out what it means to you in the present context: (each quote for 10 marks and 150 words=total 30 marks)
    1. “There is enough on this earth for every one’s need but for no one’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi.
    2. “Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”—Abraham Lincoln
    3. “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.”—Aristotle
  2. “The good of an individual is contained in the good of all.” What do you understand by this statement? How can this principle be implemented in public life? (10 marks| 150 words)
  3. It is often said that ‘politics’ and ‘ethics’ do not go together. What is your opinion in this regard? Justify your answer with illustrations. (10 marks| 150 words)

Section-B Case Studies [125m]

total six case studies worth total 125 marks.

Case#1: RTI: To hide or not to hide (20m|250w)

In the following questions, carefully study the cases presented and then answer the questions that follow:

Q9. A Public Information Officer has received an application under RTI Act. Having gathered the information, the PIO discovers that the information pertains to some of the decisions taken by him, which were found to be not altogether right. There were other employees also who party to these decisions were. Disclosure of the information is likely to lead to disciplinary action with possibility of punishment against him as well as some of his colleagues. Non-disclosure or part disclosure or camouflaged disclosure of information will result into lesser punishment or no punishment.

The PIO is otherwise an honest and conscientious person but this particular decision, on which the RTI application has been filed, turned out to be wrong. He comes to you for advice.

The following are some suggested options. Please evaluate the merits and demerits of each of the options:

  1. The PIO could refer the matter to his superior officer and seek his advice and act strictly in accordance with the advice, even though he is not completely in agreement with the advice of the superior.
  2. The PIO could proceed on leave and leave the matter to be dealt by his successor in office or request for transfer of the application to another PIO.
  3. The PIO could weigh the consequences of disclosing the information truthfully, including the effect on his career, and reply in a manner that would not place him or his career in jeopardy, but at the same time a little compromise can be made on the contents of the information.
  4. The PIO could consult his other colleagues who are party to the decision and take action as per their advice.

Also please indicate (without necessarily restricting to the above options) what you would like to advise, giving proper reasons. (20 marks| 250 words)

Case#2: Engineer: Bogus flyover vs deadline (20m|250w)

10. You are working as an Executive Engineer in the construction cell of a Municipal Corporation and are presently in-charge of the construction of a flyover. There are two Junior Engineers under you who have the responsibility of day-to-day inspection of the site and are reporting to you, while you are finally reporting to the Chief Engineer who heads the cell. While the construction is heading towards completion, the Junior Engineers have been regularly reporting that all construction is taking place as per design specifications. However, in one of your surprise inspections, you have noticed some serious deviations and lacunae which, in your opinion, are likely to affect the safety of the flyover. Rectification of these lacunae at this stage would require a substantial amount of demolition and rework which will cause a tangible loss to the contractor and will also delay completion. There is a lot of public pressure on the Corporation to get this construction completed because of heavy traffic congestion in the area. When you brought this matter to the notice of the Chief Engineer, he advised you that in his opinion it is not a very serious lapse and may be ignored. He advised for further expediting the project for completion in time. However, you are convinced that this was a serious matter which might affect public safety and should not be left unaddressed.

What will you do in such a situation? Some of the options are given below. Evaluate the merits and demerits of each of these options and finally suggest what course of action you would like to take, giving reasons. (20 marks |250 words)

  1. Follow the advice of the Chief Engineer and go ahead.
  2. Make an exhaustive report of the situation bringing out all facts and analysis along with your own viewpoints stated clearly and seek for written orders from the chief Engineer.
  3. Call for explanation from the Junior Engineers and issue orders to the contractor for necessary correction within targeted time.
  4. Highlight the issue so that it reaches superiors above the Chief Engineer.
  5. Considering the rigid attitude of the Chief Engineer, seek transfer from the project or report sick.

Case#3: Child Labourers in Sivakasi (25m|300w)

Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu is known for its manufacturing clusters on firecrackers and matches. The local economy of the area is largely dependent on firecrackers industry. It has led to tangible economic development and improved standard of living in the area.

So far as child labour norms for hazardous industries like firecrackers industry are concerned, International Labour Organization (ILO) has set the minimum age as 18 years. In India, however, this age is 14 years.

The units in industrial clusters of firecrackers can be classified into registered and non-registered entities. One typical unit is household-based work. Though the law is clear on the use of child labour employment norms in registered/non-registered units, it does not include household-based works. Household-based work means children working under the supervision of their parents/relatives. To evade child labour norms, several units project themselves as household-based works but employ children from outside. Needless to say that employing children saves the costs for these units leading to higher profits to the owners.

On your visit to one of the units at Sivakasi, the owner takes you around the unit which has about 10-15 children below 14 years of age. The owner tells you that in his household-based unit, the children are all his relatives. You notice that several children smirk, when the owner tells you this. On deeper enquiry, you figure out that neither the owner nor the children are able to satisfactorily establish their relationship with each other. (25 marks | 300 words)

  1. Bring out and discuss the ethical issues involved in the above case.
  2. What would be your reaction after your above visit?

Case#4: Nepotism in Job recruitment (20m|250w)

Q12. You are heading a leading technical institute of the country. The institute is planning to convene an interview panel shortly under your chairmanship for selection of the post of professors. A few days before the interview, you get a call from the Personal Secretary (PS) of a senior government functionary seeking your intervention in favour of the selection of a close relative of the functionary for this post. The PS also informs you that he is aware of the long pending and urgent proposals of your institute for grant of funds for modernization, which are awaiting the functionary’s approval. He assures you that he would get these proposals cleared. (20 marks | 250 words)

  1. What are the options available to you?
  2. Evaluate each of these options and choose the option which you would adopt, giving reasons.

Case#5: Leaking information

As a senior officer in the Finance Ministry, you have access to some confidential and crucial information about policy decisions that the Government is about to announce. These decisions are likely to have far-reaching impact on the housing and construction industry. If the builders have access to this information beforehand, they can make huge profits. One of the builders has done a lot of quality work for the Government and is known to be close to your immediate superior, who asks you to disclose this information to the said builder. (20 marks| 250 words)

  1. What are the options available to you?
  2. Evaluate each of these options and choose the option which you would adopt, giving reasons.

Case#6: Sexual Harassment (20m|250w)

You are the Executive Director of an upcoming InfoTech Company which is making a name for itself in the market.

Mr. A, who is a star performer, is heading the marketing team. In a short period of one year, he has helped in doubling the revenues as well as creating a high brand equity for the Company so much so that you are thinking of promoting him. However, you have been receiving information from many corners about his attitude towards the female colleagues; particularly his habit of making loose comments on women. In addition, he regularly sends indecent SMS’s to all the team members including his female colleagues.

One day, late in the evening, Mrs. X, who is one of Mr. A’s team members, comes to you visibly disturbed. She complains against the continued misconduct of Mr. A, who has been making undesirable advances towards her and has even tried to touch her inappropriately in his cabin. She tenders her resignation and leaves your office. (20 marks | 250 words)

  1. What are the options available to you?
  2. Evaluate each of these options and choose the option you would adopt, giving reasons.

GS4 Ethics Question Paper: Original Scan / Hindi Medium

  1. My server (to download the PDF scan): Click ME
  2. Google docs (To view online): Click ME

Bogus marketing propaganda

It’ll be too unethical to make bogus claims for Ethics paper itself. I had uploaded a few mock questions, case studies and topics (available on Mrunal.org/ethics) but nothing directly asked. So, zero out of 250.