Taking Law Optional in UPSC Mains Exam

Law as optional subject in UPSC

“No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Law is one of the optional subjects that the UPSC offers its candidates in the IAS mains exam. It is sometimes seen as an unpopular optional but this is far from true. Many candidates take up this optional and it also has a very high success rate. It is perhaps because of this that even non-law graduates now opt for the law optional in the mains exam. This article talks about the law optional in the UPSC mains exam.

First of all, let us look at some interesting statistics about the law optional. According to information released by the UPSC, in 2013 civil services mains exam, 144 candidates chose to take law as their optional subject and out of them, 35 people were recommended for the UPSC interview. This gives a success rate of 24.3% which is higher than all other optional subjects.

Who can take Law as an optional for UPSC?

Some people might feel that law, much like medical science is a highly specialised subject and it should be taken only if you are a lawyer. However, this is not true. Off late, even non-law graduates have taken the law optional with flying colours in the IAS exam. For instance, Munish Sharma who secured an astounding AIR of 2 in the UPSC CSE 2013 is an MBA who had taken Law optional.

Advantages of Law Optional

  • Law is a very basic thing. Everybody (and especially if you are preparing for UPSC) has some understanding of the fundamentals of law, like what is right, what is wrong, etc.
  • UPSC doesn’t expect you to be experts in law. You don’t need to be a law graduate to opt for the law optional in the IAS mains.
  • It is a scoring subject.
  • It is interesting and you can learn a lot about law by reading newspapers and following cases in news.
  • The two papers are application-based and so you don’t have to do a lot of mugging up.
  • There is a lot of overlap with the General Studies paper especially in polity and constitution.
  • Topics like governance issues, RTI, citizen-official interface, exercise of discretion, relationship between organs of state, etc. have significance for the GS papers.
  • The UPSC syllabus for law optional is limited and can be covered in a relatively short time.
  • Many social and economic issues should be viewed from the legal angle as well and law students find this easy. So, studying law helps in general studies, essay paper, ethics paper and also in the IAS interview.
  • The questions are predictable and have been repeated too.
  • UPSC avoids tough portions of the law like taxation laws and FEMA.

Pitfalls of the Law Optional

  • Sometimes the vocabulary used in law may seem alien and archaic.
  • For non-law graduates, while it is not impossible to crack the subject, coaching might be needed.
  • In this subject, the answers are highly specific and you have to use legal terminology. So, if you don’t know anything about a particular question, you cannot hope to get marks for mere attempting.

Things to Remember for Law Optional/How to prepare for law optional UPSC exam?

  • In Paper I, the important parts are Constitutional and Administrative Law. You may get up to three questions on this. You can expect a question on International Law.
  • In Paper II, it is recommended that you give examples of recent cases.
  • Don’t forget to give the legal point of view with legal terminology in each question. Cite relevant case examples. But, to differentiate your answers also give the philosophy behind every law.

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