UPSC Law Syllabus & Books to Refer

UPSC Law Syllabus & Books to Refer


UPSC Law Optional for Mains Examination has two papers.  UPSC Law Syllabus for Optional Paper 1 mostly deals with Public Law like Indian Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Public International Law.

UPSC Law Syllabus for Optional Paper II primarily consists of Contracts Law, Law of Torts, Law of Crimes and other minor Acts.

The following is the detailed UPSC Law Syllabus Paper – I:

Constitutional and Administrative Law:

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

2. Fundamental rights – Public interest litigation; Legal Aid; Legal services authority.

3. Relationship between fundamental rights, directive principles and fundamental duties.

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

5. Governor and his powers.

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

7. Centre, States and local bodies:
(a) Distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States.
(b) Local bodies.
(c) Administrative relationship among Union, State and Local Bodies.
(d) Eminent domain – State property – common property – community property.

8. Legislative powers, privileges and immunities.

9. Services under the Union and the States:
(a) Recruitment and conditions of services; Constitutional safeguards; Administrative tribunals.
(b) Union Public Service Commission and State Public Service Commissions – Power and functions
(c) Election Commission – Power and functions.

10. Emergency provisions.

11. Amendment of the Constitution.

12. Principles of natural justice – Emerging trends and judicial approach.

13. Delegated legislation and its constitutionality.

14. Separation of powers and constitutional governance.

15. Judicial review of administrative action.

16. Ombudsman: Lokayukta, Lokpal etc.

International Law:

1. Nature and definition of international law.
2. Relationship between international law and municipal law.
3. State recognition and state succession.
4. Law of the sea: Inland waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone, high seas.
5. Individuals: Nationality, statelessness; Human rights and procedures available for their enforcement.
6. Territorial jurisdiction of States, extradition and asylum.
7. Treaties: Formation, application,  termination and reservation.
8. United Nations: Its principal organs, powers, functions and reform.
9. Peaceful settlement of disputes – different modes.
10. Lawful recourse to force: aggression, self-defence, intervention.
11. Fundamental principles of international humanitarian law – International conventions and contemporary developments.
12. Legality of the use of nuclear weapons; ban on testing of nuclear weapons; Nuclear – non proliferation treaty, CTBT.
13. International terrorism, state sponsored terrorism, hijacking, international criminal court.
14. New international economic order and monetary law: WTO, TRIPS, GATT, IMF, World Bank.
15. Protection and improvement of the human environment: International efforts.

The UPSC Law Syllabus for Paper – II is as follows:

Law of Crimes:

1. General principles of criminal liability: Mens rea and actus reus, mens rea in statutory offences.
2. Kinds of punishment and emerging trends as to abolition of capital punishment.
3. Preparation and criminal attempt.
4. General exceptions.
5. Joint and constructive liability.
6. Abetment.
7. Criminal conspiracy.
8. Offences against the State.
9. Offences against public tranquility.
10. Offences against human body.
11. Offences against property.
12. Offences against women.
13. Defamation.
14. Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
15. Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and subsequent legislative developments.
16. Plea bargaining.

Law of Torts:

1. Nature and definition.
2. Liability based upon fault and strict liability; Absolute liability.
3. Vicarious liability including State liability.
4. General defences.
5. Joint tort feasors.
6. Remedies.
7. Negligence.
8. Defamation.
9. Nuisance.
10. Conspiracy.
11. False imprisonment.
12. Malicious prosecution.
13. Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Law of Contracts and Mercantile Law:

1. Nature and formation of contract/Econtract.
2. Factors vitiating free consent.
3. Void, voidable, illegal and unenforceable agreements.
4. Performance and discharge of contracts.
5. Quasi- Contracts.
6. Consequences of breach of contract.
7. Contract of indemnity, guarantee and insurance.
8. Contract of agency.
9. Sale of goods and hire purchase.
10. Formation and dissolution of partnership.
11. Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.
12. Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
13. Standard form contracts.

Contemporary Legal Developments

1. Public Interest Litigation.
2. Intellectual property rights – Concept, types/prospects.
3. Information Technology Law including Cyber Laws – Concept, purpose/ prospects.
4. Competition Law- Concept, purpose/ prospects.
5. Alternate Dispute Resolution – Concept, types/prospects.
6. Major statutes concerning environmental law.
7. Right to Information Act.
8. Trial by media.



Constitutional Law – MP Jain or V N Shukla + Bare Act by PM Bakshi

For Beginners in Constitutional Law , you can use Introduction to Constitution of India – by Dr. Durga Das Basu and NCERT Class XI- Indian Constitution at Work before getting hold of the bigger books.

It would be great for every Law Optional candidate to go through the report of National  Commission  to  Review   the  Working  of  the  Constitution.

Administrative Law – SP Sathe or I P Massey + Second ARC Reports

International Law : Malcolm Shaw or S K Kapoor or H O Aggarwal [ You can mix and match all the three for different topics]



Law of Contracts – Avtar Singh and Bare Acts

Law of Crimes – PSA Pillai or KD Gaur

Plea Bargaining – Kelkar’s Lectures on Criminal Procedure has got a chapter on it. + Read Law Commission Report on Plea Bargaining.

Law of Torts – Dr R K Bangia

Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 – Bare Act + Latest developments

Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996– Bare Act + Latest developments

Alternate Dispute Resolution – Read Law Commission Report

Information Technology Laws – Bare Act + Blogs

Intellectual Property law – Concept + Latest Amendments and developments in IPR Law  + Blogs

Competition law : Website of Competition Law commission has good Booklets.

You can also read the following Law Commission Reports

Law Commission Report on Prevention of Corruption Bill

Law Commission report on Amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996

Law Commission Report on Passive Euthanasia

Law Commission Report on Reforms in Judiciary

Law Commission Report on Trial by Media

Law Commission Report on Death penalty

Law Commission Report on Hate Speech

Online Sources :

Indian Constitutional Law Blog

Law and other things

My Law Blog

International Law Blog

Center for Policy Research Blog

Selflearn Law Optional Blog

NB: Referring Delhi University Case materials and quoting them in your answers can help you score better in your UPSC Mains Examination.


Also Read : How to prepare UPSC Law Optional : Tips on Law Answer Writing

UPSC Law Optional _Paper 1 – Analysis of Previous Year Questions

This resource was published by selflearnadmin
13 August 2017

  • Rinoy Innocent says:

    What’s your suggestion to someone who decided to take law optional for 2018 despite being a non-law graduate?

    • Hello Renoy,
      To be frank, it will be a difficult journey for a non-law graduate. I would suggest you to reconsider your choice due to following factors
      1. Vast syllabus
      2. Tendency of UPSC to ask in depth legal questions
      3. Difficulty in scoring
      4. You will have to memorize a lot.