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Section 32(2)(a) and Functus Officio: Delhi High Court's Ruling on Order Recall

Background of the Case

The case of Vag Educational Services v. Aakash Educational Services revolved around a dispute between two prominent educational service providers in India. Both parties had initially agreed to resolve their differences through arbitration, a popular method for alternative dispute resolution. However, a pivotal moment came when one of the parties decided to withdraw its claim, leading to the termination of the arbitral proceedings.

Dispute between Educational Service Providers

Vag Educational Services and Aakash Educational Services, both well-established entities in the education sector, found themselves embroiled in a disagreement over contractual obligations and alleged breaches. In an attempt to settle their disputes outside the courtroom, the parties opted for arbitration as a means to seek a fair resolution.

Claim Withdrawal and Termination of Proceedings

During the course of the arbitral proceedings, one of the parties, Vag Educational Services, chose to withdraw its claim, expressing a desire to explore an amicable settlement. This withdrawal of claim prompted the arbitral tribunal to terminate the proceedings based on Section 32(2)(a) of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

Ruling of the Court

The High Court of Delhi, in its deliberations, examined the provisions of Section 32 of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, which governs the authority of an arbitral tribunal to terminate proceedings. Specifically, the Court focused on the interpretation of Section 32(2)(a) and Section 32(3) of the Act to determine whether an arbitral tribunal could recall its order terminating the arbitral proceedings.

Section 32(2)(a): Claim Withdrawal and Termination

Section 32(2)(a) of the Act grants the arbitral tribunal the power to terminate proceedings when the claimant withdraws its claim. In the case at hand, Vag Educational Services exercised this right by withdrawing its claim, which prompted the arbitral tribunal to pass an order terminating the proceedings.

Section 32(3): Functus Officio and Finality

The High Court closely analyzed Section 32(3) of the Act, which states that once an order of termination has been issued under Section 32(2)(a), the arbitral tribunal becomes functus officio. This Latin term refers to the tribunal's loss of jurisdiction and authority over the terminated proceedings.

Function of Section 32(3)

The Court reasoned that the language of Section 32(3) clearly indicates that the arbitral tribunal's power to pass orders ceases once the termination order is issued. The purpose of this provision is to ensure finality and certainty in arbitral proceedings, precluding parties from reopening terminated cases and safeguarding the integrity of the arbitration process.

The Claimant's Attempt to Recall the Termination Order

Following the termination of the proceedings, Vag Educational Services sought to recall the termination order. The claimant argued that the termination was based on a mistaken belief that withdrawal of the claim was necessary to pursue an amicable settlement. However, the High Court held that once an arbitral tribunal has passed an order of termination under Section 32(2)(a), it becomes functus officio and lacks the authority to recall its earlier decision.

Implications and Significance

The ruling of the Delhi High Court in Vag Educational Services v. Aakash Educational Services carries significant implications for the arbitration landscape in India. The decision reinforces the crucial importance of upholding the finality of arbitration decisions and the conclusive nature of termination orders.

Enhancing Efficiency and Effectiveness of Arbitration

By affirming the non-recallability of termination orders by arbitral tribunals, the Court has taken a significant step toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The decision reduces the scope for post-termination disputes and protracted proceedings, streamlining the resolution process and saving parties time and resources.

Clarity on Jurisdiction and Authority of Arbitral Tribunals

The ruling provides much-needed clarity on the jurisdiction and authority of arbitral tribunals, particularly when a claimant seeks to withdraw its claim. It establishes a precedent that parties must exercise caution and thoroughly evaluate the consequences of their decisions. Once an order of termination is passed, it becomes binding, leaving no room for revisiting the matter before the same tribunal.

Promoting Trust and Confidence in Arbitration

The decision contributes to the broader objective of fostering trust and confidence in the arbitral process in India. The certainty offered by this ruling encourages parties to opt for arbitration as their preferred method of dispute resolution. Parties can proceed with the knowledge that termination orders will be upheld, further promoting the attractiveness of arbitration as a reliable means of resolving disputes.


In conclusion, the High Court of Delhi, in its landmark ruling in Vag Educational Services v. Aakash Educational Services, has solidified the principle that arbitral tribunals lack the power to recall their orders terminating arbitral proceedings. The Court's interpretation of Section 32(3) of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, reinforces the finality and conclusiveness of termination orders, preserving the integrity of the arbitration process and promoting efficiency in dispute resolution.

This groundbreaking decision will have a profound impact on the arbitration landscape in India. It provides parties with certainty, encourages a careful assessment of decisions, and establishes a firm foundation for the credibility of arbitration as a preferred method of resolving disputes.

The ruling in Vag Educational Services v. Aakash Educational Services represents a significant milestone in India's arbitration jurisprudence. By ensuring the sanctity of termination orders and upholding their finality and conclusiveness, the Court has fortified the credibility of arbitration as a reliable mechanism for resolving disputes.

Reference Case:

Vag Educational Services v. Aakash Educational Services