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What is an Electronic Signature

Definition of Electronic Signature

In accordance with the clause (ta) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act 2000, an Electronic signature means "authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of the electronic technique specified in the second schedule and includes digital signature".

Legal recognition of Electronic Signature

Where any 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, not withstanding 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 signature affixed in such manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government. 


Explanation - For the purposes of this section, "Signed", with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions, shall, with reference to a person, mean affixing of his hand written signature or any mark on any document and the expression "Signature" shall be construed accordingly.

What is a Electronic Signature Certificate?

In accordance with the clause (tb) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act 2000, an Electronic Signature Certificate means Electronic Signature Certificate issued under section 35 and includes Digital Signature Certificate.

Section 35 of the Information Technology Act prescribes that:
  1. Any person may make an application to the Certifying Authority for the issue of a Digital Signature Certificate in such form as may be prescribed by the Central Government. 
  2. Every such application shall be accompanied by such fee not exceeding twenty-five thousand rupees as may be prescribed by the Central Government, to be paid to the Certifying Authority: Provided that while prescribing fees under sub-section (2) different fees may be prescribed for different classes of applicants. 
  3. Every such application shall be accompanied by a certification practice statement or where there is no such statement, a statement containing such particulars, as may be specified by regulations. 
  4. 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.

Authentication of any electronic record by electronic signature or electronic authentication technique

Section 3-A of the Information Technology Act states as follows:
  1. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 3, but subject to the provisions of sub-section(2), a subscriber may authenticate any electronic record by such electronic signature or electronic authentication technique which - 
    • is considered reliable; and 
    • may be specified in the Second Schedule 
  2. For the purposes of this section any electronic signature or electronic authentication technique shall be considered reliable if- 
    • the signature creation data or the authentication data are, within the context in which they are used, linked to the signatory or, as the case may be, the authenticator and of no other person; 
    • the signature creation data or the authentication data were, at the time of signing, under the control of the signatory or, as the case may be, the authenticator and of no other person; 
    • any alteration to the electronic signature made after affixing such signature is detectable; 
    • any alteration to the information made after its authentication by electronic signature is detectable; and 
    • it fulfills such other conditions which may be prescribed. 
  3. The Central Government may prescribe the procedure for the purpose of ascertaining whether electronic signature is that of the person by whom it is purported to have been affixed or authenticated. 
  4. The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, add to or omit any electronic signature or electronic authentication technique and the procedure for affixing such signature from the second schedule; Provided that no electronic signature or authentication technique shall be specified in the Second Schedule unless such signature or technique is reliable 
  5. Every notification issued under sub-section (4) shall be laid before each House of Parliament



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