A digital signature is an electronic signature that can be used to sign electronic documents. Just the way physical documents are validated by a handwritten signature, electronic documents are validated by signing them through a digital signature.
A digital signature certificate (DSC) contains information about the user’s name, pin code, country, email address, date of issuance of certificate and name of the certifying authority.
Benefits of a digital signature certificate
Reduced cost and time: Instead of signing the hard copy documents physically and scanning them to send them via e-mail, you can digitally sign the PDF files and send them much more quickly. This saves time as well as the cost of printing and scanning the documents.
Data integrity: Documents that are signed digitally cannot be altered or edited after signing, which makes the data safe and secure.
Authenticity of documents: Digitally signed documents give confidence to the receiver to be assured of the signer’s authenticity. They can take action on the basis of such documents without getting worried about the documents being forged.
Fulfilling statutory compliances
Individuals and entities who are required to get their accounts audited have to file their income tax return compulsorily using a digital signature. Furthermore, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has made it mandatory for companies to file all reports, applications, and forms using a digital signature only.
Under GST also, a company can get registered only by verifying the GST application through a digital signature. The use of a digital signature is necessary even for filing all applications, amendments and other related forms.
Who issues DSC?
A licensed certifying authority (CA) issues the digital signature certificate. They have been given the power to issue, cancel and renew DSC as per section 24 of the Information Technology Act, 2002.
Classes of DSC
There are three classes of DSC, and each is differentiated as per the level of security:
- Class I DSCs – These DSCs cater to the purpose where the risk is minimal. The signature is stored in a software.
- Class II DSCs – These DSCs are used to sign documents where the risk is moderate. The signature is installed on a hardware cryptographic device.
- Class III DSCs – These DSCs are used where the risk of data compromise is at the extreme level. For obtaining this DSC, the person has to appear before the certifying authority. In this case, also, the signature is installed in a hardware cryptographic device.
Documents required for issuing DSC
- Identity Proof – Self-attested PAN card
- Address Proof – Voter ID card/driving license/passport/latest utility bill
Points to Remember
- Digital signatures are issued for 1 or 2 years. After their validity has expired, they need to be issued again
- A person can have different DSCs – one for official purpose and the other DSC for personal purpose
- Digitally signed documents are acceptable in legal courts as an evidence or proof