Law Optional Strategy
By Saumya Sharma, Rank – 9 UPSC CSE-2017
I am sharing my strategy for the law optional papers through this post. My seniors from college who are now in the IAS helped me quite a bit with the strategy, and I hope I can help you readers too just like they helped me. 🙂
But before I begin, here are a few basic points:
- The syllabus for law optional is enormous. It will require a good amount of time for its completion, so keep that in mind. I started studying for the optional only after the prelims exam in June 2017, but that was possible only because I had comprehensive notes with me from my college time for bulky subjects such as IPC and Constitutional Law.
- Your preparation for the Law-I paper will certainly help you with General Studies- II paper. However, you must keep in mind that you will have to mentally dissociate the two. Your GS-II will suffer if you write your answers like a lawyer. You have to keep your GS-II paper as generalas possible. Do not let your legal knowledge of the GS-II issues overexcite you.
- Please spend more time in understanding crucial topics than in memorising case law names. Your knowledge of suitable case law names will not help if you are unable to demonstrate a deep understanding of the question asked.
- Try joining a test series if possible. Every other candidate would have joined a test series for their optional subject, and you should not put yourself at a disadvantage by not having any prior answer writing practice. I had joined ambition law institute’s test series. I believe practising helped- as I could time myself better, and it also made me more decisive about choosing which questions to attempt in the exam. However, please do not rely exclusively on any test series or coaching center. You must supplement it with your own strategy and hard work.
- I must give due credit to my education at NLU, Delhi for my law optional marks. However, I know of quite a few people who have aced at law optional without having a law degree! So if the subject interests you, don’t let your lack of a legal degree become a hindrance.
Finally, please do not get discouraged by people who tell you that ‘law is not a scoring optional’ or similar stuff. Your optional should be a subject which you have an inclination towards. If you do your subject sincerely, there will always be a chance of you getting awarded decent marks for it (although they may not be as high as, say, mathematics optional). Even in years when Law-I or II papers been awarded low marks, there have been a few candidates who have scored around 145-150 in these papers. So, just keep a positive attitude and keep on working hard!
In addition to the standard sources that I have mentioned later in this article, you could follow the following websites:
- The Wire -it has a very good opinion-based coverage of legal issues. An article I had read from this website helped me in answering the question in 2017’s Law I paper on the Rajbala v. State However, be sure to have your own opinion on the articles you read about as well.
- Livelaw- any recent legal developments that you ought to know about are covered here.
- I had also subscribed to google alerts for the keyword ‘law’. I used to glance through the emails to see if there is any recent legal development that I have missed.
The basic introduction-body-conclusion format should be followed to give a structure to your answers. There will be a fixed space provided for your answers in the answer booklet. Last year, for some questions carrying the same weightage, different number of blank pages were provided. This reflects that even for questions carrying the same marks, the examiner expects a difference in the amount of content depending on what the question is asking. In any case, here is the broad word limit which a friend of mine and I were following:
- 20 marker- about 3 pages, 250 words
- 15 marker- about 2.5 pages, 200 words
- 10 marker- about 1.5 pages, 150 words
Adjust this as per your own judgment. Whichever way you write, make sure you answer the question well rather than just writing what you know about. Writing case laws and section numbers in your answers would demonstrate that you know about the subject well, just like an experienced lawyer, so try to mention them in your answers wherever possible. Memorization of case law names and section numbers will come only via revision. You need not write the facts of the case law you’re mentioning, unless it is imperative to do so. In most instances, the ratio decidendi should suffice.
The way I used to study was: I would read a topic thoroughly, and then I would read questions asked in the previous years from that topic. I would test myself if I could mentally answer those questions. This helped me revise and also to formulate answers in my head. For this purpose, I used a book by Ambition Law Institute which has a topic-wise collection of all previous year questions.
PS- Dukki refers to guide book. I bought my dukkis from Jain Book Store in Connaught Place, Delhi.
Constitutional and Admin Law
I relied on my notes from my constitutional law classes in college, and brushed it up with the following sources:
- Topic Nos. 1 to 3 (Distinctive features, Fundamental Rights and their relationship with DPSPs etc).- MP Jain
- Topic Nos. 4 to 11- Constitutional Law Dukki(supplemented with MP Jain, DD Basu and Laxmikant wherever I needed more details)
- Topic Nos. 12 to 15- Admin Law Dukki (can be supplemented with IP Massey wherever needed)
- Topic No. 16 (ombudsman)- made short notes using the internet
- In addition, I was following Gautam Bhatia’s blog https://indconlawphil.wordpress.com/
PS- Since the concise version of the SK Kapoor book was not available in the market when I went to purchase it, I studied from the expanded volume.
- Topic No. 1 Nature and Definition of IL- Shaw
- Topic No. 2 Relationship between international law and municipal law- International Law Dukki, SK Kapoor
- Topic No. 3 State Recognition etc.- SK Kapoor
- Topic No. 4 Law of the Seas- Shaw
- Topic Nos. 5 to 7- SK Kapoor
- Topic No. 8 United Nations- the internet
- Topic Nos. 9,10- SK Kapoor
Topic No. 11 onwards will require you to read from multiple sources. The best way to go about them is to use the internet generously, make your own notes. Make sure to not leave any topic out.
Also, there is this wonderful blog on public international law which I was following from my college days– https://ruwanthikagunaratne.wordpress.com/. You should definitely refer to it for case summaries and the like.
Law of Crimes
- For IPC, I referred to my college notes. In addition to that, I referred to the bare Act and the criminal law dukki. Make sure to focus on the illustrations for important sections such as murder, theft etc given in the bare Act.
- Prevention of Corruption Act- the internet
- Protection of Civil Rights Act- the internet, and also make sure to cover the Atrocities Act and the recent amendments made to it
- Plea Bargaining- Read the sections from CrPC, and referred to an article on it online
Law of Torts
- Law of Torts by Bangiawill help you to sufficiently cover the syllabus. However, revising it will be a problem so make extremely short notes for quick revision.
- Consumer Protection Act- I went through the sections of the bare Act. Additionally, do cover the recent developments regarding the new consumer protection Act.
Law of Contracts and Mercantile Law
- Contract Law i.e. Topic Nos. 1 to 7- For this, read the relevant sections from the bare Act. Supplement with the Contract Law Dukki. Refer to Avtar Singh for the topics the dukki does not cover properly.
- Contract of Agency- Booklet on the topic, available in Rajinder Nagar market
- Sale of Goods Act- Same as above
- Formation and Dissolution of Partnership- Bare Act along with judgments such as the KD Kamath and Haldiram Bhujiwala cases
- Negotiable Instruments Act- Booklet available in Rajinder Nagar market, along with the recent developments regarding the Dashrath Rupsingh Rathod case
- Arbitration and Conciliation- I referred to my college notes, and primers on the new Act.
- Standard form contracts- Contract law dukki
- Contemporary Legal Developments- The wire, livelaw, spicyIP, any new reports of the Law Commission. This is one topic for which you really cannot know what to study. Keep an eye on any recent legal developments you read about in the newspapers, or anything legal which is being talked about by op-ed writers.
- PIL- MP Jain, articles from the internet
- IPR- primer by Nishith Desai Associates on the IPR regime in India. It is sufficiently detailed and covers the topic well.
- Cyber Laws- received help from a friend who is into technology law. You could read a primer on the Act.
- Competition Law- read the PDF files available on the website of the Competition Commission of India on abuse of dominant position, anti-competitive practices etc.
- ADR- for this, I read section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code and related jurisprudence (it is a short topic).
- Right to Information Act- went through the bare Act and a few articles online
- Trial by Media- 200th report of the Law Commission of India (to be read selectively)
That’s all folks! The syllabus may seem huge but it is enjoyable. It is best to highlight and make margin notes in the books itself for quick revision. For case law and sections, make short notes that you can revise quickly. Above all, understand the topic well.
I wish you all the very best! Let’s make law optional great again.