Legal Article

The Arbitral Tribunal: A Comprehensive Guide to Its Role, Composition, and Functioning

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 21 Aug, 2023


When disputes are resolved through arbitration, the decision-making body that hears the case and renders a judgment is known as the Arbitral Tribunal. This tribunal is the cornerstone of the arbitration process, and understanding its role, composition, and functioning is crucial for parties involved in arbitration. This article aims to shed light on these aspects and help you navigate the complexities of the arbitral tribunal.

What is an Arbitral Tribunal?

An Arbitral Tribunal is a panel of one or more arbitrators who are appointed to resolve a specific dispute between parties. This tribunal acts somewhat like a court but operates under a framework defined by an arbitration agreement, arbitration laws, and procedural rules. The tribunal is responsible for conducting proceedings, making factual and legal determinations, and issuing an award that is usually binding on the parties.

Composition of the Tribunal

Single Arbitrator

In simpler, less complex cases, parties may agree to have a single arbitrator decide the dispute. This is often faster and less expensive.

Panel of Arbitrators

For more complex cases, particularly in international arbitration, a panel usually consisting of three arbitrators may be formed. Each party selects one arbitrator, and then the two chosen arbitrators pick the third, who usually acts as the chairperson of the tribunal.


Arbitrators are often experts in the field relevant to the dispute. Their expertise is one of the key advantages of arbitration over traditional litigation.

Role of the Tribunal

Procedural Conduct

The tribunal has the authority to establish procedural rules for the arbitration, within the boundaries of the arbitration agreement and relevant laws.


It is the tribunal’s responsibility to evaluate the evidence, often in a more streamlined and focused manner than a court.

The tribunal interprets and applies the law as agreed by the parties, or as applicable under international norms.

Award Issuance

The tribunal issues an award at the end of the proceedings. This award is usually final and binding, subject to very limited grounds for appeal or annulment.

Decision-Making Process

The decision-making process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Initial Case Management Conference: A preliminary meeting to discuss the procedural timetable and any interim measures.
  2. Written Submissions: Parties submit their arguments and evidence in writing.
  3. Oral Hearings: If applicable, oral arguments and witness cross-examinations occur.
  4. Deliberations: The tribunal deliberates in private to reach a decision.
  5. Issuance of Award: The decision, along with reasons, is issued to the parties.

Accountability and Impartiality

Arbitrators have a duty to remain impartial and independent throughout the proceedings. Disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest is mandatory. Arbitrators can be disqualified for bias, and in some instances, the award can be annulled if partiality is demonstrated.

Final Thoughts

The Arbitral Tribunal plays a pivotal role in the arbitration process. Its formation, role, and conduct are crucial elements that define how the arbitration will unfold. Understanding these can help parties make informed decisions and properly prepare for arbitration.


This article is intended for informational purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. Always consult with qualified legal professionals for guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.


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