UPSC Mains Law Optional: Preparing for International Law Section

International Law comes under Section B of the Law Optional Paper I in the UPSC Mains exam. This section consists of four questions out of which one is a compulsory question.

The recommended books for this section are:

  1. International Law by Malcolm N. Shaw
  2. International Law & Human Rights by S K Kapoor

You don’t have to read the entire books for this section. Only the UPSC-relevant topics are enough. You can also refer to the internet for information and material on many topics of international law.

There is considerable overlap with general studies in international law. The topics are international economic institutions, protection of human environment, non-proliferation, United Nations etc.

Important topics in international law:

  • Nature and definition of international law, sources of international law (customs, principles, treatises, etc.), basis, subjects of international law, sanctions.
  • Relationship between international law and municipal law is very important as direct questions can be expected from this.
  • State recognition and state succession, difference between de facto and de jure recognition, theories of recognition of state and recognition of government, difference between types of State succession and implications of non-recognition. You can expect practical questions from this topic.
  • You can also expect practical questions from topic, law of the sea. Continental Shelf and its determination are extremely important. Other important topics are inland waters, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, continental shelf, high seas and territorial sea. You should study seminal judgments of ICJ like North Sea Continental Shelf case, the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, comparison of UNCLOS 1958 and 1982.
  • Transit passage and freedom of high sea are important topics for short notes.
  • Nationality, statelessness, human rights and procedures for their enforcement, the legal position of individual under international law, role of UN in promoting human rights, ICJ’s judgment on Nottebohm case.
  • Territorial jurisdiction of states, extradition and asylum. You can expect theoretical questions from asylum, the difference between territorial and extra-territorial asylum, territorial jurisdiction on high seas and warships, and concept of opposability, extradition and diplomatic immunity. “Asylum ends where extradition begins” is a question which has been regularly asked in past.
  • Important questions on treaties section are Jus cogens, rebus sic stantibus, principle of pacta sant servanda and reservation in treaty.
  • In the UN section, compulsory jurisdiction of ICJ, veto system and provisions of UN charter for peace keeping are key topics.
  • Different modes of peaceful settlement of disputes, lawful use of force and conditions under which it is justified, legality of the use of nuclear weapons, ban on testing of nuclear weapons, NPT, CTBT.
  • International terrorism, hijacking, state-sponsored terrorism, international criminal court. These are more relevant for GS than international law.

Also read | UPSC Mains Law Optional: Tips to Study Constitutional and Administrative Law

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