A digital signature certificate, the full form for DSC, is a fundamental requirement for authenticating digital data. Government agencies and other organisations deal with an overwhelming number of digital forms and applications daily. As a result, verifying the identity of the files’ bonafide owners becomes crucial.
Digital signatures provide a secure, authentic and foolproof way to ensure that documents filed electronically are genuine. Continue reading to know more about DSC, its benefits, functionalities and more.
A digital signature certificate or DSC is a secure digital key to verify the identity of the certificate’s owner. The certificate contains its owner’s credentials, such as name, resident country, pin code, email address, the name of the certifying authority and the date of certificate issue.
In other words, the certificate is like an electronic proof of the identity and personal details of the individual holding it. Digital signature certificates use public key infrastructure (PKI) to generate the signatures. PKIs represent the policies, procedures, processes, hardware and software enabling the creation, use and management of digital signatures and encryption.
These digital signatures are like online versions of pen-and-paper signatures that one would ideally use to prove ownership or authenticity of a file or document. You can use your DSC to sign documents digitally or access information and services on the internet.
If you’re wondering why you should apply for a digital signature certificate online, take a look at the importance of these certificates for fulfilling statutory compliances:
The Controller of Certification Agencies (CCA) appoints agencies that can issue digital signature certificates. The CCA authorises 12 certification agencies for this purpose. These certifying authorities have a licence to issue a DSC under Section 24 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Below is a list of the certifying authorities that can issue DSCs:
The type of DSC you apply for depends on your purpose for obtaining a digital signature certificate. Following are the three broad classes of digital signature certificates that certifying authorities issue:
1. Class 1 certificate – The Class 1 digital signature certificates are issued to private subscribers or individuals to confirm that their user name and email address are clearly defined in the certifying authority’s database.
2. Class 2 certificate – Class 2 digital signature certificates were typically issued to directors or signatory authorities of companies e-filing with the Registrar of Companies (ROC). The CCA has discontinued the issue of Class 2 certificates from January 1, 2021, and these have been replaced by Class 3 certificates.
3. Class 3 certificate – A Class 3 DSC certificate is required when participating in online biddings, e-auctions and other online tender transactions in India. Vendors participating in these auctions must file tender-related documents electronically using a Class 3 digital signature certificate.
Regardless of the type and purpose, every digital signature certificate has some fundamental components that help secure information and facilitate verification. These components are:
1. A public key to enable the verification process
2. Contact details of the owner, such as the name and the email address
3. The date of issuance of the digital signature certificate
4. The expiration date of the digital signature certificate. The DSC needs to be renewed after the expiry date.
5. The name of the certifying authority of the DSC
6. A unique serial number that helps in tracking
Let’s look at some of the key benefits of a digital signature certificate:
1. Preserves data integrity: One of the most significant advantages of having a digital signature certificate online is that it ensures data integrity. Data remains safe and secure since digitally signed documents cannot be altered or modified.
2. Verifies document authenticity: In addition to ensuring that digital data is not tampered with, digital signature certificates assure the receiver that the owner is genuine.
3. Saves time and money: Manually signing hard copies of documents for further processing is time-consuming and requires the signatory to be physically present. Having your digital signature online eliminates these hassles since you can digitally sign PDF documents and share them quickly.
4. Improves the customer experience – Digital signature certificates enable smooth business transactions online. No matter where you are, you can effortlessly engage with your customers and vendors round the clock and offer quick services.
When applying for a digital signature certificate online, you must submit relevant documents along with your DSC application form. In addition, these documents must be duly attested by a Group A/Group B gazetted officer.
1. Applicant’s Identity Proof
You can submit any one of the following documents as proof of identification:
2. Address Proof
The following documents are acceptable as address proof while applying for a DSC:
3. Attesting Officer’s Identity/Address Proof
A self-attested copy of the identity proof/address proof of the attesting officer is also required.
The following steps will walk you through the step-by-step process of applying for a digital signature certificate online through a certifying authority:
Log in to the website of eMudhra, a certified body that issues digital certificates.
You will be redirected to another page where you have to select user type, certificate type and validity. Once done, click on ‘Buy Certificate’
Enter your details. Follow the 3-step method as illustrated in the below image. Once the payment and other formalities are done, your digital certificate will be approved and ready for download within 30 minutes.
You can approach other certifying authorities to fetch your digital signature certificate. Alternatively, DSCs can also be obtained, wherever offered by CA, using Aadhar eKYC based authentication, and supporting documents are not required in this case.
Certifying authorities typically issue digital signature certificates with one-year and two-year validity. However, digital signature renewal is possible upon the expiration of the validity period. As per the CCA guidelines, renewal of digital signature certificates requires fresh identity verification of the applicant. You can renew your DSC by following the same steps as applying for a DSC.
Holding a DSC certificate allows owners to sign documents digitally. It ensures robust data security and integrity that could otherwise be compromised in pen-and-paper transactions. Digital signature certificates are practical when conducting business online since these digital keys allow the secure verification of the certificate holder’s identity. You can obtain your digital signature certificate from a certifying agency authorised by the CCA.
Ans: Individuals and entities signing e-forms and digital documents such as filing ITR, registering for GST and participating in online auctions must apply for a digital signature certificate from a Certifying Authority.
Ans: You can get a valid digital signature certificate by applying to any of the certifying agencies authorised by the office of the Controller of Certification Agencies (CCA) under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Ans: The cost/pricing of digital signature certificates are market-driven and vary with the certifying agency. Payments for DSC are made through demand drafts or cheques at the time of application with the Certifying Authority.
Ans: Certifying authorities typically take between three to seven business days from the date of application to obtain a digital signature certificate in India.
Ans: Yes, you can hold more than one digital signature certificate, depending on your personal and professional purposes. However, having a Class 3 DSC is sufficient for use across all digital documents.
This article is solely for educational purposes. Navi doesn't take any responsibility for the information or claims made in the blog.
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