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Electronic Signature Law in India
Electronic signatures have superseded the conventional way of signing on physical papers, which was an integral feature of contemporary corporate transactions. Being a country with a swift expanding digital economy, India has recognized early the significance of electronic signatures and created the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) to regulate electronic signatures, digital transactions, and other such activities.
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act, which was enacted on June 9, 2000, was intended to offer legal recognition for electronic transactions and signatures in India. In addition, it developed a legal infrastructure for e-commerce in the country and established a framework for the use of digital signatures and certifications.
In 2008, the IT Act was revised to include a new Section 10A, which gave legal validity to electronic signatures. The amendment acknowledged three forms of electronic signatures: Digital Signature, Biometric Signature, and Electronic Signature.
Types of Electronic Signature
In the digital age, electronic signatures have transformed how papers are signed. They have made the signature procedure more efficient, convenient, and secure. Based on its application and uses, there are numerous forms of electronic signatures, each with its own set of characteristics and advantages.
Following are the major types of electronic signature −
Basic Electronic Signature
The basic electronic signature is the simplest form of electronic signature, which can be as simple as an image of a handwritten signature. It is created with a stylus or a mouse on a digital device, such as a tablet or a computer, by the signatory. The basic electronic signature lacks extra security protections and is not as secure as other electronic signature types.
Advanced Electronic Signature
The advanced electronic signature provides a better level of security than the basic electronic signature. It is generated with a cryptographic key that is exclusive to the signer. The cryptographic key is used to sign the document, and it ensures the integrity of the document by preventing any modifications to it after the signature is made. The advanced electronic signature also provides non-repudiation, meaning the signatory cannot deny having signed the document.
Acceptable Electronic Signature
The qualified electronic signature is the most secure form of electronic signature. It is created using a qualified certificate that is issued by a trusted service provider (TSP). The qualifying certificate is based on a TSP-verified digital identity, which provides a high level of trust and security. The qualified electronic signature also provides the signer with non-repudiation, meaning the signer cannot deny signing the document. The legally binding electronic signature is recognised by law in numerous nations.
The biometric signature is a sort of electronic signature that employs biometric data to identify the signatory, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris identification. High levels of security and non-repudiation are provided by the biometric signature. In high-security settings, such as government agencies and financial institutions, the biometric signature is frequently employed.
A digital signature is a sort of electronic signature that is created using a cryptographic algorithm. It provides a high level of security and is used to verify the validity and integrity of a document. The digital signature is generated using the signer's unique private key. The signature is encrypted with the private key and decoded with the public key. The digital signature guarantees irrefutability and is legally enforceable.
Legal Significance of Electronic Signature in India
Section 2(1)(p) of the IT Act defines Electronic Signature as "authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber using an electronic method or procedure in conformity with Section 3 of the Act." Simply put, it refers to the procedure of electronically signing an electronic document.
Electronic signature rules in India recognize electronic signatures as legally valid and equate them to physical signatures. In addition, they establish a legal framework for the use of digital signatures and certificates, ensuring the legitimacy of electronic transactions.
India's rules on electronic signatures further stipulate the situations under which electronic signatures may be utilized. According to Section 5 of the IT Act, an electronic signature is only regarded legitimate if it is used with the consent of the person whose signature is being affixed and if it is linked to the electronic record in such a way that any modification to the record can be detected.
Case Concerning India's Electronic Signature Legislation
In many decided cases, the Supreme Court and many other High Courts ruled that electronic evidence, including electronic signatures, is admissible in court proceedings.
The court ruled that, subject to specific criteria, electronic signatures are admissible in court as evidence under the IT Act. The court further noted that the burden of proving the legitimacy of an electronic signature rests with the party submitting it as evidence.
The case demonstrates the significance of India's electronic signature laws, which establish a legal framework for the use of electronic signatures and guarantee the security and validity of electronic transactions.
Electronic signatures are now required for all corporate transactions in the modern day. They offer a more efficient, convenient, and secure method of signing papers. The various types of electronic signatures offer differing levels of security and are appropriate for various document and transaction types. The level of security necessary for the document or transaction dictates which type of electronic signature should be used.
Likewise, the Electronic Signature Law in India has created a legal foundation for the use of electronic signatures in commercial transactions. It has made the signature process more efficient, convenient, and secure. Electronic signatures have various advantages, including cost savings, time efficiency, and reduced paper usage. Interestingly, with the increasing digitization of enterprises, electronic signatures are gaining popularity, and it is anticipated that their use will continue to increase in India.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What constitutes an electronic signature?
Ans. Electronic signature is the process of electronically signing on electronic document. The IT Act recognizes it as a valid method of document signing.
Q2. What kinds of electronic signatures are recognized under the IT Act
Ans. The IT Act recognizes three forms of electronic signatures: the Digital Signature, the Biometric Signature, and the Electronic Signature.
Q3. In India, what is the legal standing of electronic signatures?
Ans. Under the IT Act, electronic signatures are legally recognized in India and deemed comparable to physical signatures.
Q4. Are electronic signatures admissible in legal proceedings?
Ans. Yes, under certain conditions, electronic signatures are accepted as evidence in court proceedings. The duty of demonstrating the legitimacy of an electronic signature rests with the party relying on it.
Q5. Under what circumstances is an electronic signature regarded valid?
Ans. An electronic signature is regarded as legitimate only if it is used with the authorization of the person whose signature is being affixed and if it is linked to the electronic record in a way that detects any alterations to the record.
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