Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) are the digital equivalent (that is electronic format) of physical or paper certificates. Few Examples of physical certificates are drivers’ licenses, passports, or membership cards. Certificates serve as proof of identity of an individual for a certain purpose; for example, a driver’s license identifies someone who can legally drive in a particular country. Likewise, a digital certificate can be presented electronically to prove one’s identity, access information or services on the Internet, or sign certain documents digitally.
What is a digital signature certificate?
DSC is a protected digital key provided by the certifying authorities to verify and confirm the identity of the individual keeping such certificate. Digital signatures use the authentication of the public key to build the signature. DSC contains information on the user’s profile, pin code, nation, email address, certificate issuance date, and the certifying authority’s name.
Benefits of a Digital Signature Certificate
Authentication: It can be used to authenticate the personal information and details of a person while doing business online.
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. A Digital Signature certificate holder does not have to be physically present to conduct or authorize a business.
Data integrity: Documents that are signed digitally cannot be altered or edited after signing, which makes the data safe and secure. The government agencies often ask for these certificates to cross-check and verify the business transaction.
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.
Importance of DSC for 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.
Certifying Authorities for Issuance of a Digital Signature Certificate
The Controller of Certifying Authority for the purpose of issuing digital signatures in India has authorized eMudhra as one of the certifying authorities for issuance of Digital Signature Certificate. Other certifying authorities may include (n) Code Solutions, National Informatics Centre, Safescrypt, and Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology.
Classes of DSC
The type of applicant and the purpose for which the Digital Signature Certificate is obtained defines the kind of DSC one must apply for depending on the need. There are three types of Digital Signature certificates issued by the certifying authorities.
Class 1 Certificates: These are issued to individual/private subscribers and are used to confirm that the user’s name and email contact details from the clearly defined subject lie within the database of the certifying authority. This certificate confirms that the information in the application provided by the subscriber matches with the information stored in the consumer database. For example, when you log in to your social media account, your id and password are verified if they match you can log in.
Class 2 Certificates: This certificate also verifies a person against a trusted, pre-verified database. This certificate is relevant to situations where the risks and consequences of data compromise are moderate. For example, during transactions that may have substantial monetary value or risk of fraud, or include access to private information.
These are issued to the director/signatory authorities of the companies for the purpose of e-filing with the Registrar of Companies (ROC). Class 2 certificate is mandatory for individuals who have to sign manual documents while filing returns with the ROC. However, from 01.01.2021, the Controller of Certifying Authority has instructed to discontinue Class 2 Certificates and Class 3 Certificates will be issued in place of Class 2 Certificates.
Class 3 Certificates: This is the highest level certificate and to get it the person needs to present himself in front of a Registration Authority (RA) and prove his/her identity only then it is issued. These certificates are used in online participation/bidding in e-auctions, online tenders, etc. So, the vendors who participate in online tenders must have a Class 3 certificate. These are required where the consequences of the failure of security services are high.
Documents Required for Submitting a DSC Application
Submission of a DSC duly filled application form by the applicant
- Photo ID proof
- Address proof