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Analysis of UPSC Optional Law Syllabus (Constitutional Law)

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

This page analyses the syllabus of Constitutional law only in Detail as provided in UPSC law Optional for CSE Mains Examination in detail. Its do not cover Books And online Resources to follow. For that You should Look for other post in the website 

This blog analysis primarily aims at providing you with detail understanding of topic and what to study in individual topic and sub topic within. It also provides generically, type of questioned asked in previous papers.

The detail analysis is done by Aditya Tiwari sir. Who teaches law optional at De Facto IAS. (Previously at Lukmaan IAS) Delhi. You can ask direct question to him at Quora(link)


Topic 1 : Constitution and Constitutionalism: The distinctive features of the Constitution.

It is very Philosophical topic and requires understanding of three thing:

Constitution, Constitutionalism And Feature of Constitution.

For Constitution subtopic, Read Preamble and part - I (Union and Its Territory) Part- IVA( Fundamental Duties) and other such subtopic which are not specially provided in the constitution. These topics are not specifically provided in the Law optional syllabus but there have been questions on those in mains examination as well. So do read them as well.

For constitutionalism Subtopic, I would suggest reading the meaning and scope of the the term and its different shades available in Indian constitution. What are its different principle and how it is useful in modern day. Remember part of Indian constitution which inhibits constitutionalism principle, you should be able to cite such article of constitution which inhibits principle of constitutionalism. 

Feature of Constitution, it is a conventional Sub topic and very general in nature. This topic can be studied along with paper-II of the UPSC Mains Examination. Combine study of this topic with Topic no -8(See Below). 

Topic 2 : Fundamental Rights—Public interest litigation; Legal Aid; Legal services authority.

This topic is very wide and maximum question is covered from this topic so prepare it

wisely and give it more time. You can expect at leatst 4 type of question from the topic. Two from fundamental right and Two from rest from sub topic such as PIL,Legal Aid and Legal Service Authority.

For Fundamental right I would suggest reading bare text of the constitution first then

case law relating to it. Focus on case laws which have connection with two or more

fundamental rights. Do read philosophical aspect of it.

For PIL , Legal Aid and Legal Service Authority sub topics, question are asked only of jurisprudential nature, like nature, usefulness and purpose.

PIL topic relates to judicial innovation and promoting justice. Read it from the perspective of connecting this topic with Fundamental right and Legal aid. Also read how far it have been effective.

Legal Aid and Legal authority are connected topic. Legal service authority act is legislative landmark in legal aid movement. Question from legal aid are contemporary in nature, read recent articles and laws promoting legal aid. There have been multiple other laws apart from LSA act which provides that state shall provide help to poor for accessing justice. Read it from this perspective.

Topic-3 : Relationship between fundamental rights, directive principles and fundamental duties.

This topic could have been provided separately but have been given at one place. It signify you have to not only study these individually but focus on relationship between them . Questions have been asked on this topic Like what Provision of DPSP and FR have been read together by Supreme Court In different Cases.

How Fundamental right is justiciable and DPSP is not and what is the rationale behind it. Mostly Philosophical Questions from it is asked. See previous year paper of UPSC law optional for an idea (especially 2012,2014 and 2016 questions) Little complex but can be done.

Topic - 4 : Constitutional position of the President and relation with the Council of Ministers.

In this topic majority of question is simply on constitutional position of president and their relation with Cabinet. Legal aspect of it like what advise president can follow what president can ignore. What the legal grounds and case law related to it. Whether court can enquire into advise given by council of minister. If yes what are the limitation placed in constitution and case laws related to it.

Similar things as above for relationship between Governor and Council of minister. Be generic, don't waste much time on it as it is similar to above sub topic.

Topic - 5 : Governor and his powers.

It is very simple and straight forward topic not much detailed question is asked but sometime they have asked its comparison with Council of minister and presidents relationship. Read the detail provision related to it. Student often leave this topic as it is similar to President one. But there are minute differences and that difference is only asked. So Go in detail about it.

Topic - 6 : Supreme Court and High Courts: (a) Appointments and transfer. (b) Powers, functions and jurisdiction.

It is a very wide topic at last 3 types question you can expect from it. One or two direct question and 2 related with other topic such as Legal Aid and PIL.

Major area to study in this topic involves Actual provision in the constitution related to judiciary. Do not leave Subordinate judiciary have an overview about it, although not given in topic directly. It is there as function of high court to supervise over state lower judiciary.

There have been lot of question on appointment of judges, its constitutional provision as well as how it have evolved and do it need any reform. UPSC ask questions generally from executive side tilting in favour of executive like, wouldn’t it be nice if judges were appointed by executive as they are responsible to the people. So do read from that perspective as well.

On jurisdiction generally question is from writ only. Like Types, various grounds on which writ is issued and case laws related to it. Do read writ vis a vis administrative discretion topic of Administrative law. As UPSC do ask at least one of these question almost every year.

Topic- 7 : Centre, States and local bodies: Distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States. Local bodies.Administrative relationship among Union, State and Local Bodies. Eminent domain - State property - common property - community property.

As it a very large topic lets decipher it in accordance with previous year pattern. Mostly question area asked in distribution of legislative power and it is related to federalism topic as t is distribution of legislative power which makes a nation state federal or unitary in nature. Executive distribution simply follow legislative distribution.

Local bodies subtopic is fairly simple again can be combined with panchayati raj topic in UPSC GS - II paper. However, Municipal bodies you will have to read separately. Read only philosophical aspect or PRI institutions. UPSC seldomly asks literal provision of constitution, But knowing the constitutional provision helps you write answers better.

Administrative relationship between union and state has to be read with legislative relationship for the reason stated above. But there are important case laws related to it like Ram Javaya kapoor which needs to be remembered. Administrative relation with Local Bodies and Union or State has to read separately it is important. Read this keeping in mind it is the local bodies who actually delivers Union and State program to public. So How both can command its obedience. This perspective is necessary. Read exact constitutional provision related to it.

Eminent Domain is fairly simple topic, learn its meaning and rationale. Also how it is different from police and tax taking power of state. Case law connecting it with right to property and limitation placed on it by Supreme Court Judgements. How it is relevant in modern day.

Topic-8 : Legislative powers, privileges and immunities

This topic is very specific Here legislative power simply means the Subject in which legislature is allowed to make law. Various interpretation doctrines related to union, state and concurrent list.

Specifically read the article and understand it minutely with important case laws. Provision related to trade in part XII also must be read along with it. Most of the case law related to legislative power is invariably linked to taxing statute case laws.

Privileges and immunity of parliament are generally of two type institutional and as a member. Read case law and what is the ratio in case of it conflict with fundamental right or individual and Contempt of court. There have been question in law optional paper regarding this, like need of having this elaborate provision given India is a democratic country and members as equal to citizens no way a privileged one.

Topic- 9: Emergency provisions.

In this topic you have to first read, type of emergency, their application, effect and grounds has to be read (Read provision from the constitution ). There after go for reading its conflict with fundamental right and how it have devastating effect go FR and Federal nature of Indian Polity. There was a question on how and

Topic - 10: Amendment of the Constitution.

In this Topic three type of questions comes and you have to study the same only. First literal provision in 10 marker, Second asking for view regarding this provision vis a vis Flexibility of amendment and its affect on federal nature. Thirdly, Philosophical question related to keshavanand bharati case (Doctrine of Basic Structure). And how the law related to it evolved since independence. Focus on Case Laws which needs to be cited frequently in the answers.


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