A Digital Signature Certificate also usually called as DSC plays a very important role in business transactions. Let us understand what it is and how it can be obtained along with a few important things one should not miss out on.
A Digital Signature Certificate is used to sign electronic documents digitally. It is issued by certifying authorities. It is basically a secure digital key by which the identity of the Digital Signature Certificate holder is proved. The identity of the holder like holder’s name, email, pin code, country, certificate issuance date, public key along with the name of the certifying authority is available in the Digital Signature Certificate.
There are 3 classes of Digital Signature Certificate. The class of DSC applicable to a person is depended on the reason for which it is required and the type of certificate holder. Below mentioned are the 3 classes of certificates along with their applicability:
Digital Signature Certificates are beneficial for Foreign Trade, e-Tendering, e-Procurement, e-Return file, e-filing of ROC, Employee provident fund, PDF signing, Invoice signing etc.
Certifying authorities play a very important role in the process of obtaining the Digital Signature Certificates by an applicant. They are responsible for verification and issuance of digital certificates. They act as a trusted third party who is trusted by the holder of Digital Signature Certificate and receiver of the documents which are signed by Digital Signature Certificate. Certifying Authorities can also create a sub Certifying Authority under them, however, they are not independent legal entities. The Certifying Authorities must keep the application form of DSC for 7 years after expiry of the Digital Signature Certificates.
The validity of the certificates is controlled by law and these certificates are valid for a minimum period of 1 year and maximum of 3 years.
Digital Signature Certificates cannot be reused on its expiry. A fresh application is required to be made on the expiry.
Suspension of a Digital Signature Certificate is basically a temporary hold placed on it. The requestor of suspension can also request for the activation of the Digital Signature Certificate. The Certifying Authorities add these suspended certificates to the revocation list. The Certifying Authority who issued a Digital Signature Certificate may suspend Digital Signature Certificate on receival of a request from the subscriber or any person duly authorized to act on behalf of the subscriber. If the certificate issued is not in public interest in the opinion of the Registration Authority or Certifying Authority, the certificate can be suspended by them. It cannot be suspended for more than fifteen days unless the subscriber has been given a chance of expressing his views in the matter. The Certifying Authority shall communicate to the subscriber on the suspension of a Digital Signature Certificate.
It is an official cancellation of the Digital Signature Certificate. The Certifying Authority who issued a Digital Signature Certificate may revoke the same on request of the subscriber or any person authorised by him or upon the death of the subscriber or upon the dissolution of the firm or winding up of the company wherein the subscriber is a firm or a company. If the Certifying Authority who issued the digital signature certificate is of the below mentioned opinion subject to the provisions of sub-section(3) and without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section(1), then the certificates can be revoked.
Revocation cannot be done unless the subscriber has been given a chance of expressing his views on the matter. The Certifying Authority shall communicate to the subscriber on the revocation of a Digital Signature Certificate.
What is the cost of obtaining a Digital Signature Certificate?
These costs are depended on the class and validity of Digital Signature Certificate. The entities issuing digital signature certificate are many and there is no standard price for obtaining a Digital Signature Certificate. It can differ for every Digital Signature Certificate issuing entity.
Are the certificates of the signer and the issuing Certifying Authority required for the verification of a Digital Signature Certificate of an individual?
The certificate of the signer and the certifying authorities are required. Series of certificates up to the Root certificate are required. This chain can be a part of the digital signature itself or can be made available to the verifier by the application service provider.
Will the signature be valid after the expiration of Digital Signature Certificate?
The signature will be considered valid if the Digital Signature Certificate was valid at the time of that signature.
Are all classes of certificates required to be issued by all the Certifying Authorities?
It is not mandatory for a certifying authority to issue all classes of certificates. They can choose to issue the any class or classes of Digital Signature Certificates. They are only allowed to issue the certificates to those allowed by Controller of Certifying Authorities and specified in the India PKI CP.
Are self-attested documents accepted by Certifying Authorities for the issuance of Digital Signature Certificates?
Those who wish to apply for Digital Signature Certificate can approach Certifying Authorities directly with the original supporting documents, wherein self-attested copies are sufficient.
Can an electronic record be signed without the signer being aware of it?
An electronic record can be signed without the signer being aware of it if the private key is not stored securely.
In the days wherein, the technology is expanding rapidly, Digital Signature Certificates are making the process of signing electronic documents easier and making it a way more secured process than the physical signing process of documents. The fraud risk gets reduced and the data confidentiality is maintained.
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