Digital Signature Laws in India

Digital signature is electronically generated and can be used to make sure the veracity and legitimacy of data. The dawn of information technology revolutionized the whole world, India is not an exception to it; as technological activism is the social behavior in India.

IT Act Provisions Related to Digital Signature

Section 3 of IT Act, made the provision for it as: Authentication of electronic records.-

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, any subscriber may authenticate an electronic record by affixing his digital signature.

In IT Act, chapter 3 related to electronic governance, sections 4 and 5 are quite relevant.

Section 4 made the provision for Legal recognition of electronic records — where any law provides that information or any other matter shall be in writing, typewritten or printed form then not-withstanding anything contained in such law, given requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such information or matter is—

(a) rendered or made available in an electronic form; and

(b) accessible so as to be usable for a subsequent reference

Section 5 Legal recognition of [electronic signatures] — where law provides that information or any other matter shall be authenticated by affixing the signature or any document should be signed or bear the signature of any person then, notwithstanding anything contained in such law, such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied, if such information or matter is authenticated by means of [electronic signatures] affixed in such manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government.


Digital Signature Vs. Digital Certificate

Digital signatures are based on three pointers for authentication – Privacy, Non repudiation and Integrity in the virtual world, while the objectives of digital certificate are the authentication of documents, and bind the person who is putting the digital signature, which based on public key cryptography requires two separate keys, as secret and public. However, both the keys are linked together, one key encrypts the plain text, and another decrypts the cipher text, and neither key can perform both the functions. The other difference is digital signature is an electronic process of signing an electronic document while a Digital Certificate is a computer based record which is the identification of certifying agency or the identity of subscriber

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Digital Signature Vs. Electronic Signature

The Information Technology Amendment Bill 2006, replaces the word “Digital” with the word “Electronic” at several places in the principal act, which creates a slight difference between the two, electronic signature is wide in nature, while the digital signature is one of the many kinds of electronic signature.

Section 2(ta) “electronic signature” means authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic technique specified in the second schedule and includes digital signature and section 2(p) defined “Digital Signature Certificate” means a Digital Signature Certificate issued Under sub-section (4) of section 35.

The Indian Evidence Act and Digital Signature

After the IT Act 2000, it was necessary to make an applicable amendment in the Indian Evidence act, to make it compatible.

Section 3 in the definition of “Evidence”, for the words “all documents produced for the inspection of the Court”, the word “all document including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court”

Section 47A, says when the court has to form an opinion as to the digital signature or any person, the opinion of the certifying authority which has issued the Digital Signature Certificate is a relevant fact. It means while drawing the conclusion, court gives the weight of the digital signature as a relevant fact.

Further 67A proof as to digital signature – except in the case of a secure digital signature, if the digital signature of any subscriber is alleged to have been affixed to an electronic record the fact that such digital signature is the digital signature of the subscriber must be proved.

Section 85B exhibits the positive presumption as  Presumption as to electronic records and digital signatures.- (1) In any proceedings involving a secure electronic record, the Court shall presume unless contrary is proved, that the secure electronic record has not been altered since the specific point of time to which the secure status relates.

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Indian Penal Code

Section 464 Making a false document: A person is said to make a false document or false electronic record—

First — who dishonestly or fraudulently-

Makes or transmits any electronic record or part of any electronic record;

  •  affixes any [electronic signature] on any electronic record;

  • makes any mark denoting the execution of a document or the authenticity of the  [electronic signature],

with the intention of causing it to be believed that such a document or a part of document, electronic record or  [electronic signature] was made, signed, sealed, executed, transmitted or affixed by or by the authority of a person by whom or by whose authority he knows that it was not made, signed, sealed, executed or affixed; or

Secondly —Who, without lawful authority, dishonestly or fraudulently, by cancellation or otherwise, alters a document or an electronic record in any material part thereof, after it has been made, executed or affixed with  [electronic signature] either by himself or by any other person, whether such person be living or dead at the time of such alteration; or

Thirdly —Who dishonestly or fraudulently causes any person to sign, seal, execute or alter a document or an electronic record or to affix his  [electronic signature] on any electronic record knowing that such person by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication cannot, or that by reason of deception practiced upon him, he does not know the contents of the document or electronic record or the nature of the alteration.]

About the Author:

Naveen Kumar Shelar is an advocate and a legal consultant, who founded the online law firm – The Law Office. He is an author of several academic & professional legal books and management articles, and established an NGO called “Nayaya A Voice For Justice”  to ensure that nobody is deprived of an opportunity to seek justice merely for want of funds or lack of knowledge.