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Analysis of UPSC Optional Law Syllabus (Law of Crime)

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

This page analyses the syllabus of Criminal 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 questions asked in previous papers.

The detail analysis is done by Aditya Tiwari sir. It have been taught in class of UPSC law optional at De Facto IAS ( Previously Sir Taught at Lukmaan IAS) , Delhi. You can ask direct question to him at Quora(link)


Topic 1. General principles of Criminal liability : mens rea and actus reus, mens rea in statutory offences

This topic contains general analysis of theory of criminal law. Study component of criminal act and rational behind those component. Also read how it has developed in common law system.

Focus of statutory offences and how mens rea was not considered a essential factor in these offences. What was basis or rationale for it. Also read dissenting opinion in MH George Case. Multiple time based on dissenting opinion a question have been asked in UPSC law optional exam law optional previous year question paper.


Topic 2. Kinds of punishment and emerging trends as to abolition of capital punishment.

It is very contemporary topic and mostly jurisprudential nature of question is asked from it. Like different theory of punishment and how effective they are. Which theory India adopts. Should India change reformatory system of punishment.

Emerging trend in the topic means the shift in criminal jurisprudence which is occurring around the world, the whole system is shifting from being accused friendly to victim friendly. Like awarding compensation to accused and charging that on accused rather than state.

On capital punishment read the famous rarest of rare doctrine and how it is very subjective. Do it need any change. I will suggest reading SC judgments on it. Also read specific application of doctrine and its relation with Fundamental right of accused like delay in execution. etc.


Topic 3. Preparations and criminal attempt.

It is classical topic requires understanding of 'Attempt, As given in S.511 of Indian Penal Code( Herein Referred as IPC). Read its meaning and different theories related to attempt.

Preparation for a crime has to be read as one of the stage of a crime and also its relation with attempt. there have been direct question of relation between preparation and attempt in UPSC law optional previous question papers.


Topic 4. General exceptions. 

This topic is given in Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code which deals with the general exceptions to criminal liability. There are various kinds of acts (exceptions) done under the circumstances mentioned in Secs. 76 to 106, which will not amount to offences under the Code. These exceptions are:

(1) Mistake of fact (Secs. 76, 79).

(2) Judicial acts (Secs. 77-78).

(3) Accident (Sec. 80).

(4) Absence of criminal intention (Secs. 81-86, 92-94).

(5) Act done by consent (Secs. 87-91).

(6) Trifling act (Sec. 95).

(7) Private defence (Secs. 96-106).

Read sub topic 1,5,7 in more detail. For rest have a cursory reading only. No need to go in much detail not much question is asked in UPSC law optional.


Topic 5. Joint and constructive liability

The law relating to ‘joint liability’ is given in Secs. 34-38, IPC. There are three more sections in the Code which deal with joint or constructive liability, viz. Sec. 149 (Unlawful assembly), Sec. 396 (Dacoity with murder), and Sec. 460 (House-breaking by night with murder or grievous hurt).

Read above sections with case law and illustration apended to it. specially focus on cases where two or more of above sections are involved. Mostly that is asked in previous year question papers of law optional UPSC Exam.


Topic 6. Abetment.

To ‘abet’ means to instigate, to help, to encourage. When several persons take part in the commission of an offence, each one of them may contribute in a manner and degree different from the others to the commission of it. Secs. 107-120 of the I.P.C. deals with abetment (Chapter V).

Abetment types, modes and its general provision needs to be studied. Go into detail of different modes. Focus on case laws. Read UPSC law optional Solved paper on this blog.


Topic 7. Criminal conspiracy.

Conspiracy is generally a “matter of inference deduced from certain criminal acts of the parties accused, done in pursuance of an apparent criminal purpose in common between them”

There are three kinds of conspiracies dealt with in the Code (Chapter V-A). that you have study in this topic. They are:

(i) Sec. 120-A.

(ii) Secs. 107 and 108 (Abetment by engaging in a conspiracy).

(iii) Sec. 121-A (Conspiracy to wage war).

Mostly there are question on 120-A and its relation with abetment given in sections 107 and 108 in UPSC law optional.


Topic 8. Offences against the State. 

All States have the same right of self-preservation as their subjects, and States like men have from time immemorial, exacted safeguards for their own preservation and protection. Sedition is an offence against the State (Chapter VI).

Other such offences include- waging war or treason against the Government (Sec. 121), assaulting high officers like the President/ Governor (Sec. 124), and, suffering escape of or harbouring a State prisoner or a prisoner of war (Secs. 128-130).

Mostly question from this topic asked in law optional UPSC is asked on its constitutionality and case law related to what actually sedition means. like Kedar singh case is very important.


Topic 9. Offences against public tranquility.

This topic is given in Chapter VIII of IPC and mainly deals with three offences namely Unlawful assembly and becoming its member (141-142), Rioting and related offences and Affray.

Mostly question law optional is from unlawful assembly so read that in more detail.


Topic 10. Offences against human body

This Topic consist of two sub topic and mostly question is asked from first sub topic:-


2. Kidnapping and Abduction

Every year there is almost one 20 or 25 marker question in law optional UPSC paper form murder or culpable homicide. Mostly the question is on relation between two. Like one species other is its genus. Read and give this topic more time and importance.

Kidnapping and Abduction is fairly simple sub topic. generally a 10 market asking for writing note on each of difference between them is asked in law optional paper.


Topic 11. Offences against property

This topic relates to offence of Theft, Extortion, Robbery and Dacoity which are the offences against property laid down in Chapter XVII of I.P.C.

Read individual subtopic in detail, especially focus on inter relation between them. There have been question on case law basis and asking wether the given case is robbery of dacoity or both. so read clearly component of each of them.


Topic 12. Offences against Women

There are multiple statute where offences related and against women are provided. I have compiled a list of laws where they are provided and question have been asked in UPSC law optional examination on these.

1) The Crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

i) Rape and Related offences (Sec. 376, 376A-376E IPC)

ii) Kidnapping & Abduction for specified purposes (Sec. 363 - 373 IPC)

iii) Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304- B IPC)

iv) Torture - both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC)

v) Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)

vi) Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC)

vii) Importation of girls (upto 21 years of age) (Sec. 366-B IPC)

2) The Crimes under the Special & Local Laws (SLL) The gender specific laws for which crime statistics are recorded throughout the country are –

i) Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

ii) Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

iii) The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

iv) Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986

v) Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987

Sub topic 2 laws are not that important as offence in IPC so focus on that more.


Topic 13. Defamation.

Defamation is both a tort as well as a crime. Chapter XXI of the I.P.C. deals with defamation. I will suggest that you read both and combine this topic preparation with tort law topic of same nature.

There have been recent development on challenging its constitutionality as a criminal offence. it was held valid by Supreme Court. Read that judgement once.


Topic 14. Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988

In this topic two things needs to be studied, first evolution, need and effectiveness of corruption prevention laws. Mostly philosophical question is asked from it. Read Law commission report on it.

Secondly, read the provision of the act with key definitions and recent amendment in 2018. it is a short topic. maximum 1 day will be required.


Topic 15. Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and subsequent legislative developments.

This topic have two subtopic one is civil right act and later the subsequent legislative development was THE SCHEDULED CASTES & SCHEDULED TRIBES (PREVENTION OF ATROCITIES) ACT, 1989. Read both of there provisions. Also read relation of them with article 17 fundamental right

Later act have been in news recently due a judgment of Supreme Court making it toothless and there was a huge uproar. Read that judgment, a question may be there. As


Topic 16. Plea bargaining

A plea bargain is an agreement between the defence and the prosecutor in which a defendant pleads guilty or no contest to criminal charges. In exchange, the prosecutor drops some charges, reduces a charge or recommends that the judge enter a specific sentence that is acceptable to the defence.

Read its importance for handling case overload in India


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