The digital equivalent of a handwritten signature but offering far more inherent security, a digital signature is intended to solve the problem of tampering and impersonation in digital communications. Digital signatures can provide the added assurances of evidence to origin, identity and status of an electronic document, In many countries, including India, digital signatures have the same legal significance as the more traditional forms of signed documents. It is used in India in many e-Governance applications like online filing of Income Tax Returns, formation of companies and their management, e-Tendering etc.
Issued by the licensed Certified Authority, a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is an electronic form of the key used to authenticate the identity of the individuals and businesses holding the certificate. A DSC ensures the security and authenticity of documents. A Digital Signature Certificate comprises of all the important information such as user’s name, country, email address, date of issuance of certificate and name of the certifying authority. Having the characteristic of being easily transferable and that they cannot be imitated is a boon in itself. Paperless DSC helps saving time and costs.
A Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is issued by the licensed 'Certifying Authority' (CA). The trusted agency, Certifying Authority is responsible for issuing, revoking, renewing, and providing directories for DSCs. The agencies that are granted the license are maintained up-to-date by the MCA. To obtain the DSC, it is mandatory for applicants to submit a dully-filled digital signature form. The Certifying Authorities own the right to issue DSCs having one or two years of validation. Generally, it takes 3-7 business days after applying for it. eKYC verification is organized online when an individual is holding a valid Aadhaar number. Post verification of eKYC, a DSC is allocated to the individual immediately on the same day. The CAs can charge fees from the users at their discretion; the approximate fee charged for an individual DSC is INR 750.
Individuals require a digital signature certificate for numerous purposes that include carrying out secure web-based transactions, signing documents like MS Excel, MS Word, and PDFs, eProcurement, eTendering, and filing of Income tax returns
Individuals or entities wanting to digitally sign a document can do easily by following simple steps. Upon receiving an e-mail comprising a link to the document which needs to be digitally signed, here’s what one should do:
Step 1: Click the link, the document will open in an electronic signature tool.
Step 2: The user will have to agree to electronic signing. After the user confirms the agreement, he will be required to follow a set of instructions to start or sign.
Step 3: The user can add the digital signature on clicking each tag and following the instructions.
Step 4: The final step is the verification of one’s identity and following the instructions to add the digital signature.
Following are the requirements to apply for Digital Signature Certificate
Points to Remember
Digital signatures are issued for 1 or 2 years. After the validity gets expired, they need renewal. An individual can have different DSCs – one for official purposes and the other DSC for personal purposes.
The types of digital signature certificates are listed below:
Class 1:Used for identification of username and email ID to state that these details belong to a particular person. It cannot be used for authentication purposes and hence, not allowed to sign any documents.
Class 2:The identity of a person is verified against a trusted, pre-verified database. It is issued to an individual/ organization for purposes such as income tax e-return filing, the provident fund claims filing, MCA/ROC (Ministry of Corporate Affairs / Registrar of Companies) returns filing, etc. It can be conveniently downloaded over the internet from anywhere.
Class 3:An individual needs to physically present himself in front of a Registration Authority (RA) and prove his identity with appropriate documents. This digital certificate is used for e-tenders, booking online tickets, e-procurement, etc.
The Class 2 DSC is issued for business personnel and private individuals and used for submitting various forms with the Government of India. To obtain DSC, applicants are required to submit necessary documents along with the digital signature form to the service provider. The type of documents varies depending on the applicant type:
Indian citizens are required to furnish any of the following documents as proof of identity:
Passport; PAN card; driving license; Post Office ID Card; Bank Account Passbook containing a photograph and signed by an individual with attestation by the concerned Bank official; Photo ID card issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs of Centre/State Governments; or any Government issued Photo ID card bearing the individual’s signatures
For Proof of Address:
Aadhaar Card; Voter ID Card; Driving Licence (DL)/Registration Certificate (RC); water bill or electricity bill (not older than 3 months); latest Bank Statements signed by the bank; Service Tax/ VAT Tax/ Sales Tax registration certificate; or Property Tax/ Corporation/ Municipal Corporation Receipt
Foreign nationals must submit an attested copy of any of these documents like identity proof:
As Address Proof, they can furnish an attested copy Applicant Passport or any other Government-issued Address Proof