A digital signature is a way to identify yourself online. Just like passports, driving licenses, and PAN cards allow you to prove your identity offline, digital signatures let you prove your identity online. To do this, you need a digital signature certificate and that lets you sign documents digitally. If you’re wondering how to get a digital signature certificate, what it is, or why you even need it, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about digital signature certificates.
Is digital signature the same as an electronic signature?
No, a digital signature is different. Electronic signatures are not encrypted and can be something as simple as you sending “I accept” via email to say, your CA or fund manager. Digital signatures need to be encrypted and contain information about your identity, and these can be used to access sensitive personal information such as your account on the Income Tax Department’s website.
A digital signature certificate is quite useful in India since digitally signed documents are accepted by various government agencies and are admissible in a court of law too. You can use digital signature certificates to e-file your income tax returns, for a Registrar of Companies e-filing, online auctions (such as e-tenders), and to sign documents such as PDFs.
If you have a digital signature certificate, you don’t have to send signed hard copies of documents. This will save you a lot of time, not to mention the effort it takes to sign multiple documents. Thanks to the encryption used in these certificates, you can also be sure that the person or company receiving the documents knows that these documents are genuine.
There are three classes of digital signature certificate and their functions are as follows:
The Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) under the Ministry of Electronics & IT has authorised certain certifying authorities to issue digital signature certificates. You can find the full list of licensed certifying authorities on the CCA website. There are different classes of digital signature certificates and not all of these can be issued by all licensed certifying authorities. As of May 2018, the various kinds of digital signature certificates offered by various licensed certifying authorities are as follows.
How long is a digital signature certificate valid?
There are different types of digital signature certificate available and while getting one, you can choose the validity duration as well. At the moment, you can purchase digital signature certificates that are valid for up to three years, with the minimum duration being one year.
Certifying authorities in India don’t usually sell class 1 certificates. The reason may be because class 2 and 3 certificates are most commonly used on government portals and that class 1 doesn’t authenticate anything except your name and email address. The prices of digital signature certificates vary from provider to provider and you can check the rates with each of them yourself. We checked Emudhra and their site offers digital signature certificates from Rs. 899 to Rs. 5,999 depending on the class, duration, and the type of certificate you need.
If you are willing to buy a USB token to store your digital signature certificate (for around Rs. 750), then you can even get the certificate for free via sites such as Free DSC.
What are the documents needed to get a digital signature certificate?
For class 2 and class 3 digital signature certificates, the documents needed are attested copies of an identity proof and an address proof. You’ll need to get these documents attested by a gazetted officer or a bank manager. Identity proof includes documents such as passport, PAN card, driving license, or other government-issued IDs. You can check this with your certifying authority for confirmation.
Address proof includes documents such as the latest telephone bill, electricity bill, or water bill, or voter ID card, passport, etc. These documents vary for companies, and once again it’s best to check with your certifying authorities before proceeding.
How long does it take to get a digital signature certificate in India?
Most certifying authorities take between three and seven working days to issue a digital signature certificate in India.
Where do I store my digital signature certificate?
Digital signature certificates are soft copies that you can store on your computer. Alternatively, you can buy a USB token to store these certificates, which is considered more secure. Note that if you delete this certificate or lose the USB token, there is no way to recover it. You will have to revoke that digital signature certificate and apply for a new one.
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