Law, a hitherto less popular optional, has been steadily gaining new converts in the last couple of years. Some of it has to do with the perception that certain popular optional subjects get ‘butchered’ in the Mains. Some of it probably comes from the realisation that in the post 2013 pattern, GS Papers II and III cover a lot of the same ground that the Law syllabus does.
While I would unequivocally recommend Law to all law graduates, non-lawyers may consider the fact that Law has a substantially wider syllabus than many other optionals. Parts of it, especially Paper II, have a very technical feel to them-with a lot of linguistic hair-splitting. There is hardly any good coaching available and memorising case law and section numbers may not be to everybody’s liking. What goes in Law’s favour is that at its root, it is nothing but common sense. No legal concept is so dense that it cannot be understood from the standard text books. It is also one of the two optionals where the difficulty level is not of Honours level. The subjects that most students in Law School dread form no part of the UPSC syllabus. Little wonder then that many non-lawyers have aced the CSE with Law over these two years.
Law Paper I comprises of Constitutional Law and International Law. Law Paper II has the Law of Torts, the Law of Contracts, the Law of Crimes and Contemporary Legal Developments.
LAW PAPER I (Marks: 148/250)
Law Paper I along with GS Paper I is my personal favourite among the many that UPSC makes us write. This paper consists of two separate portions-Constitutional Law and International Law. You need to attempt two each from both the portions along with one more from either of the two.
There is no substitute to reading the Constitution. Do not be daunted by the 400 odd Articles there. You only need to know about a hundred of them. Together with the bare text, you need an excellent commentary. For UPSC purposes, MP Jain or VN Shukla are the best. I would recommend VN Shukla for the lack of jargon though MP Jain is more exhaustive. Remember to read the syllabus well and restrict your preparation to that part. Indiscriminately trying to mug up the entire Constitution is going to be an exercise in futility. Always proceed topic wise. For eg-if you are doing the part on Judiciary, make sure to correlate what you are reading about the SC with parallel provisions regarding the High Court even though there may be a hundred other articles in between. Case Law is an absolute must. You only need to know the landmark judgments though. If you are a law graduate, you probably already know the important case laws for each part. If you are not, Bakshi’s Bare Text of the Constitution includes important case laws along with the Articles. As a rule of the thumb, High Court judgments may be ignored, unless they lay out a whole new paradigm-like Narsu Appa Mali or the Naz Foundation case.
The last five topics of the Constitutional Law portion deal with Administrative Law. This may be done from IP Massey’s book. Read it as you would a story and remember to jot down a couple of important case laws here and there. Massey deals with these rather extensively but remember that the UPSC at best would only require a broad based understanding of the same. So do not stress about the numerous case laws, examples, exceptions and so on. The side heading along with a couple of lines should do for most.
Try and be updated regarding latest case law from lawandotherthings.blogspot.com. Gautam Bhatia’s excellent indconlawphil.wordpress.com is rather dense but very useful for those interested in the subject.
The International Law syllabus is perhaps the easiest part of the Law portion for a non-lawyer. Starke or Malcolm Shaw are the recommended textbooks if you are doing this subject for the first time. However, if you already have a base in this, SK Kapoor on International Law should do for UPSC purposes. It is written like a guide, parts of it are outdated and the grammar is nothing much to write home about, but it is concise and heavily features the Indian angle-both major plus points for the CSE. Case Law is a must but you need not try and memorise every tiny detail-the name and 3-4 major features should do just fine. This is also true of most Treaties. Do remember that Kapoor does not explain the topics very well, so you may need to fall back on Starke/Shaw if your concepts are not clear. For international bodies and environment, the best source is the Internet as it is a very dynamic topic.
LAW PAPER II (Marks: 116/250)
This paper is hardcore law and your concepts need to be absolutely clear. I used the following books:
- Indian Penal Code: KD Gaur
- Contracts: Avtar Singh
- Torts: Bangia
These texts need to be supplemented by the Bare Acts (except Torts of course). I used to read the section first and try and represent it in a linear manner so as to bring out its key elements. Only then did I read the commentary on it along with the case law. It is quite possible to go offtrack here considering the large number of sections. Therefore, do read your syllabus carefully.
Memorising the names of leading cases is a given, but you also need to know the facts of many others, especially in IPC. This is because many of the questions in the UPSC papers directly reference the facts of some case or the other. So it makes sense to invest in another book for the IPC, maybe a Pillai, only so that you can read through the facts of all the cases there that are not mentioned in KD Gaur.
Try and make extensive notes in the Contracts and IPC portions. The commentaries are very long and you will have a hard time during revision if you do not have succinct notes. You can, of course, memorise the entire Contracts Act, but even if you don’t, do try and do so for atleast the first 75 sections. These are the broad principles and you can quote them even in questions that do not directly deal with them. Remembering the IPC sections is a lot easier (or was for me). Do not leave out the sections that deal with aggravated offences-like theft by house breaking, for eg-many a times, the questions refer to these particular sections.
You may invest in DU Law Dukkis for the remaining topics like Sale of Goods, Partnership Act, NI Act and Arbitration and Conciliation Act. Do not ignore these as a couple of questions are sure to come from this part. Another excellent source for revising this portion is the AIBE material. For the other Acts mentioned, you will have to rely on the bare text. Knowing the broad features should do.
Contemporary Legal Developments may be done from the Internet. Cross reference it with the Bare Acts where you can. Again, this portion cannot be ignored as it supplies a question or two almost every year. More than the sections here, the broad theory is important, especially for, say, Competition Law. This would include problems with the current regime, changes possible or maybe even expounding on its development over the years.
For both the Law papers, it would be a very fruitful exercise to practise previous years’ papers. Try and solve as many of them as you can. The theory of law does not change and there is only so much variation you can have in your papers. Solving the last ten years papers alone should help you master atleast a third of your syllabus.
In addition, you may look up some of the Law Commission’s important reports (like the 156th, 200th) as well as the report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. These may be quoted in your 20 markers, but are not a must.
In my next post, I will try and put up some of my GS answers as best as I remember them.