Everything you must know about eSignatures in India

Everything you must know about eSignatures in India

There has never been greater emphasis on digitalizing critical business processes across industries. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation for enterprises worldwide, and India was no exception. Indian companies quickly adapted to remote working and the social distancing environment by embracing digital technologies to engage employees, collaborate with vendors and partners, and deliver value to the end customer. As a result, there has been a rapid proliferation of the use of digital signature in India.

With the advent of AADHAAR, one-time passwords (OTPs), the rise in digital literacy, and supporting legislation, India has seen a spurt in the adoption of eSignatures. From banking, microfinance, SME lending, stockbroking, and HR organizations to new-age start-ups, companies across industries use e-signatures to drive productivity, transparency, and cost efficiencies. Signing bank documents that would interrupt a customer’s daily schedule can now be done anywhere, anytime, improving the customer experience drastically.

Moreover, such processes took 5-7 days and can now be executed within minutes at a fraction of the cost. Similarly, human resources departments that spent significant manual effort, time, and cost on collecting and verifying documents and getting employees to fill and sign tedious forms can be automated to deliver a seamless employee experience and reduce operational expenditure. The use case extends to vendor onboarding and other scenarios.

What does Indian Law say about eSignatures?

The Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act) has recognized e-signatures for more than 21 years, treating legitimate electronic signatures equivalent to physical signatures. The act specifies two types of e-signatures that have the same legal status as handwritten ones:

  1. Signatures combining the signer’s AADHAAR identity number with a standard electronic know your customer (eKYC) method, such as OTPs.
  2. Digital signatures that combine a certificate-based digital ID issued to a signer by a Certifying Authority (CA) and a personal identification number (PIN). Such signatures generate a unique hash of the document and encrypt it using the signer’s private key.

The law also lists out five critical conditions that must be met for the e-signature to be recognized under it. Those are:

  1. The e-signature must be unique to the signer.
  2. The signer must have control over the data used to create the e-signature at the time of signing.
  3. Any subsequent changes made to an e-signature or the signed document must be detectable.
  4. A robust audit trail of steps taken during the signing process must be maintained.
  5. All signer certificates must be issued by a Certifying Authority recognized by the Controller of Certifying Authorities established under the IT Act.

If an e-signature meets all five conditions, any document it is affixed to is considered legally valid.

Are all e-signed documents valid?

According to the IT Act, documents that need to undergo a notarial process or ones that have to be registered with a registrar or sub-registrar can not be e-signed and require a handwritten signature. Such documents include:

  • Negotiable instruments, such as promissory notes or bills of exchange other than a cheque
  • Powers of attorney
  • Trust deeds
  • Wills and any other testamentary disposition
  • Real estate contracts, such as leases or sales agreements

What is eStamping?

Stamping is the process of affixing a physical stamp on a document to make it official or legal. The physical stamping process has always been associated with logistic hassles and unnecessary expenses, involving stamping vendors, stamp inventory management, and physical currency exchange. It is effort intensive and causes severe delays, leading to poor productivity and an underwhelming customer experience.

In July 2013, the Indian government launched the eStamping facility to minimize counterfeiting and errors. Consequently, the Central Record Keeping Agency (CRA) for all e-stamps used in the country was established, known as the Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited (SHCIL). It manages user registration and administration, receives applications for stamps, and maintains records. The SHCIL further has authorized collection centers for issuing e-stamp certificates.

e-Stamp certificates can be issued in minutes, are tamper-proof with a unique identification number (UIN), can be easily verified, and do not require a specific denomination while being issued. With SHCIL’s e-stamping application, users can pay stamp duty online and print the certificates anywhere, anytime. While that has boosted the quality of Government to Citizen Services (G2C), it has also enabled enterprises to execute contracts seamlessly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

How can Certinal help you streamline eSignatures and eStamping?

Certinal is a trusted, secure, and globally compliant e-signature solution that is fully compliant with the IT Act. Use of digital signature in India empowers companies to improve the ease of doing business online, boost the security and cost-effectiveness of records, and enhance customer and employee experience. Certinal’s key features include:

  • Meets stringent regulatory and security requirements of the Indian Law.
  • Supports eStamping facility, streamlining the procurement, storage, and affixing of stamp paper online.
  • Encompasses intuitive features, drag-and-drop functionality, and a user-friendly interface.
  • Produces comprehensive audit reports for non-repudiation.
  • Enables bulk signing and approval with bulk consent.
  • Easily integrates with contract lifecycle management, CRM, and other enterprise systems.
  • Offers multiple authentication methods, including email link click authentication, phone OTP, signing password, and account-based authentication.

Read More About eSignature Legality in India.

Schedule a demo today to experience our leading-edge, digital-first eSignature solution built to meet the unique needs of the future-ready Indian enterprise.

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