Digital Signature Certificate
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Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) are the digital equivalent (that is electronic format) of physical or paper certificates. A few Examples of physical certificates are driver’s 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, to access information or services on the Internet, or to sign certain documents digitally.
Benefits of a Digital Signature Certificate
- Authentication:Helpful in authenticating the personal information details of the individual holder when conducting 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. Government agencies often ask for these certificates to cross-check and verify the business transaction.
- The authenticity of documents:Digitally signed documents give confidence to the receiver to assured of the signer’s authenticity. They can take action based on such documents without getting worried about the documents being forged.
Classes of digital certificates
In India, there are three classes of digital signature certificates (DSCs) that are recognized by the government:
Class 1 DSC: This is the lowest level of DSC, and it is used primarily for securing email communications. It is issued to individuals and does not provide any assurance about the identity of the signer.
Class 2 DSC: This is the most commonly used type of DSC, and it is used for transactions that require a higher level of security than Class 1. It is issued to both individuals and organizations and assures the identity of the signer.
Class 3 DSC: This is the highest level of DSC, and it is used for transactions that require the highest level of security and authenticity. It is issued only to individuals and is used in applications such as e-tendering, e-procurement, and e-auctions.
Each class of DSC has its level of security and is suitable for different types of transactions. It is important to choose the appropriate class of DSC based on the level of security required for the transaction.
How DSCs Operate?
A DSC is generated via a PKI technique that generates two keys, a public key, and a private key. During an information exchange, the signer keeps the private key, whilst the recipient must have the public key to decrypt the information regarding the user’s identity. The user can save the private key as a token on a computer or hard drive and access it using the password granted.
During the transfer of information, both the browser and the server utilize the keys to encrypt and decrypt data to authenticate the user’s identity. The public key is distributed alongside the encrypted data. Even if a single key does not match, the authentication procedure fails. Consequently, the encrypted data cannot be deciphered, preventing unauthorized access.
When is Digital Signature mandatory or required?
- Company Incorporation: Incorporating a Public Limited Company, Private Limited Company, Limited Liability Partnership, or One-Person Company requires a Digital Signature Certificate.
- Obtaining Director Identification Number (DIN): Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is required when applying for a Director Identification Number (DIN).
- Ministry Of Business And Industry (Compliances): If your company’s annual revenue exceeds INR 60 Lakhs, you must validate your tax returns using a Digital Signature Certificate.
- Income Tax: All individuals/professionals with an annual gross income of over INR 25 Lakhs and enterprises with an annual turnover of over INR 1 Crore are required to file income tax returns using a Digital Signature Certificate.
- Tax On Sales And Services: If you are a business entity (other than a sole proprietorship), you are required to have a Digital Signature Certificate to register for and verify online GST Returns.
- Import & Export Code: When applying for an import or export code, DSC is a requirement.
- Intellectual Property Rights: Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is essential for the filing of intellectual property rights such as trademarks and patents.
- E-Tendering: A Class 3 Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is required for companies and businesses who participate in or plan to participate in E-Tendering processes on various government websites.
- Employee Provident Fund: Employers registered in India can use the Class 3 Digital Signature Certificate to electronically submit the Employee PF Transfer Claim Form.
Importance of Digital Signature Certificate
Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is a form of electronic signature that is used to verify the authenticity and integrity of electronic documents and transactions. In India, DSCs are recognized as a valid and legally binding means of signing electronic documents, and they are widely used for statutory compliance. Here are some of the reasons why DSC is important for statutory compliance:
- Legal validity: The use of DSC ensures that electronic documents are legally valid and enforceable, as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
- Security and authenticity: DSCs provide a high level of security and authenticity to electronic transactions, as they are issued only after thorough verification of the identity and credentials of the signatory.
- Efficiency and convenience: DSCs make it easier and more convenient to sign and submit electronic documents, as they eliminate the need for physical signatures and the associated paperwork.
- Compliance with regulations: DSCs are often required to comply with various statutory regulations, such as filing income tax returns, GST returns, and company filings. In many cases, electronic filings without DSCs may not be accepted by the relevant authorities.
DSCs are an essential tool for ensuring the legality and authenticity of electronic documents and transactions, and they play a crucial role in complying with various statutory regulations in India.
Components of DSC
Key Components of DSC are public and private keys and robust software that is employed to convert data into executable algorithms. The components of DSC are,
- A public key which is Components of DSC is required as a part of the verification system
- The next Component of DSC is Contact details the Name and email address are required for ease of identification
- The expiration date of the DSC is issued. It is used to set the shelf life which enables the signature to reset after the date of expiry
- The name of the company is present which is another Components of DSC that helps to identify issuing authority of the signature
- The serial number of the digital ID, which is a unique number that is bundled along with the signature, is present which helps in tracking and is also a component of DSC.
Requisites to Get a DSC:
Any person who is seeking to obtain a DSC can apply to the certifying authority for the issuance of the certificate. The DSC application requires minimal documents. The certification authorities are appointed by the Office of the Controller of Certification Agencies (CCA). The CCA has given authority to various certification agencies to issue a DSC to the individuals seeking the same.
The following are the requirements for making a DSC application:
- The applicants can approach the certifying authorities with original supporting documents and self-attested copies.
- DSCs can also be obtained by producing proper identity and address proofs, like that of the Aadhar card of the applicant.
- A valid DSC issued by a bank that contains the applicant’s personal information is retained in the bank database. The certificate is issued by the manager of the bank.