In the past decade, it has been observed that major world economies have transformed their policies and legislations to adapt to the new economic standards of globalisation and liberalisation. Though the entire process of digitalization is very recent to the Indian sub-continent, electronic signatures or e-signatures were inducted under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (Hereinafter IT Act). Initially, the term ‘Digital’ was utilised to denote electronic record information, but later on the Information Technology Amendment Bill, 2006 (Hereinafter ITAB) replaced it with ‘electronic’ in the principal act. The prime proposal of the Bill was to enable authentication of electronic records by e-signature technique.
Along with the Sec. 3 of the IT Act, 2000, Sec. 6 of IT ACT, 2006 has several conditions which are to be considered together. Primarily, Sec. 6 provides that a subscriber must authenticate any electronic record which is reliable and specified in Second Schedule. With the initiation of the IT Act, there were several alterations made in other subsequent legal provisions. Foremost, Under Sec. 65-B of the IEA provides that electronic records must be admissible in the court of law.
Sec. 47A of the Indian Evidence Act (Hereinafter IEA) states that when the court has to form an opinion as to electronic signature or any person, the opinion of the certifying authority which has issued the electronic signature certificate is a relevant fact.
Though in various situations, it is observed that the term ‘digital’ and ‘electronic’ is used as complementarily, but there is a slight line of difference between the terms. As per the definition of E-signature, Digital signature is one of the many kinds of electronic signature. As an interpretation of Sec. 47A of the IEA, in formation of opinion of electronic signature, the court will give emphasis to digital signature.
Further, As per Sec. 67A of IEA, provides that information provided in a electronic signature certificate is valid unless contrary is proved. The Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 stated that the term ‘electronic signature certificate’ is a substitute of ‘digital signature certificate’. Under the Indian Penal Code (herein after IPC), Sec. 464 defines about preparation of a false document. The provision states that the document can be electronic in nature. The provision discusses regarding transmission, affixing and authenticity of electronic record or signature.
Under the IT Act, there are two separate areas related to electronic signatures under the current act. There are provisions for both electronic signature and electronic signature certificates. This section will exclusively deal with the prime legal provisions for electronic signatures under the IT Act.
As the prime subject of the blog does not deal with electronic signature certificate, thus the subject has not been dealt here. Nevertheless, Chapter VII of the Act deals primarily with Electronic Signature Certificates wherein under Sec. 35 of the Act it discusses on all the relevant information on Certifying authority to issue electronic signature certificate along with the procedure and fee. Sec. 40A of the Act also mentions about the duties of subscriber of Electronic Signature Certificate.
With the growing level of interconnections among the countries of the world, there are several issues of privacy and protection of identity that arise. The IT Act attempts to cover intricacies related to electronic signature. Apart from that, the Act under Sec. 66C also provides for Punishment for theft for electronic signature. The punishment if found guilty is either imprisonment which may extend to three years and fine which may extend up to Rupees 1,00,000. As a final analysis of the current legal provisions, the researcher observes that the prevalent legal provisions are quite well developed but at the same time there are certain legislative gaps. Foremost provisions under the IT Act and other relevant legislations, there is an absence of time period or limitation period, which might result in slow functioning in the current world order.