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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Rules and Laws for Digital Signature Certificate in India


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Digital signature certificate is an online identity of any individual or organization. It is also called DSC. It is very important digital document that needs very secure environment to create and use this. The Digital Certificates in India is regulated by Indian government and the government is also made certain law and regulation for it.

Digital signature is a mathematical scheme for demonstrating the authenticity of a digital message or document. A valid digital signature gives a recipient reason to believe that the message was created by a known sender, and that it was not altered in transit. Digital signatures are based on public key encryption. It uses prime numbers like 2,3.5.7,9,11 and so on which can be divided only by itself or by 1 and is incapable of division by other numbers. We have unlimited prime numbers and in DS we use the multiples of prime numbers.

In India, MCA-21 program launched by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) really revolutionized the use of digital signature by making E-filing mandatory for most of the documents required to be filed under the Companies Act 1956 and under the Limited Liability Partnership Act 2008 (LLP Act). The Income tax department followed suit and provided compulsory filing of returns in the electronic mode except a few under the Income Tax Act 1961. The Central Excise Act and Finance Act 1994 (dealing with service tax) also provides schemes for E-filing. Now the application for registration under Foreign Contribution Regulations Act provides that it shall be filed electronically. The application for IEC code is to be filed electronically with DGFT (Director General of Foreign Trade).

Let us see the statutory definition of DSC.
Section 2(q) of the Act defines the Digital Signature Certificate to mean a Digital Signature Certificate issued under sub-section (4) of section 35 and does not explain its meaning. DSC is issued by the authorities known as CA (Certifying Authorities). Section 35 deals with the procedure for issue of electronic/digital signature by the Certifying Authorities (CA). Section 35(4) provides that on receipt of an application under sub-section (1), the Certifying Authority may, after consideration of the certification practice statement or the other statement under sub-section (3) and after making such enquiries as it may deem fit, grant the Digital Signature Certificate or for reasons to be recorded in writing, reject the application Provided that no application shall be rejected unless the applicant has been given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the proposed rejection. Thus the IT Act 2000 as such do not contain the exact meaning of the term Digital Signature Certificate but only describes that such a certificate is one which is issued by the CA after following the prescribed procedure. But I have already explained the meaning of the same in the above paragraph.

The Indian Evidence Act 1872 is a piece of legislation dealing with evidences that can be produced or admitted in a court of law by the litigating parties. The law which was enacted in 1872 naturally did not envisage electronic signatures and records as evidences. Hence in view of the widespread use of electronic records and Electronic signatures including DS it was felt necessary to amend the said Act to make it in conformity with the changing trends in the society.

Section 3 of the Evidence Act 1872 provides for interpretation or definition of certain words or expressions used in the Act. The said section was amended to include electronic records also in the definition of the term evidence. Further section 47A has been inserted to provide that when the Court has to form an opinion as to the electronic signature of any person, the opinion of the Certifying Authority which has issued the electronic Signature Certificate is a relevant fact.

Section 67A has been inserted which protects the secure electronic Signature (DS). It provides that if the electronic signature of any subscriber is alleged to have been affixed to an electronic record the fact that such electronic signature is the electronic signature of the subscriber must be proved except when the same is a secure electronic signature. Section 73A has been newly inserted to provide that the court may direct the concerned person or Certifying Authorities (CA) to ascertain whether DS is that of the person by whom it is purported to have been affixed. It may also direct any other person to apply the public key listed in the electronic Signature Certificate and verify the electronic signature purported to have been affixed by that person.

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