Electronic signature or eSign in India is relatively new for trying to replace our physical signatures, something that is thousands of years old.
Initially, early man used his thumbprint on ink or clay as his or her physical signature.
In fact, ink thumbprints are still being used by individuals who are illiterate and don’t know how to physically apply a signature.
Today, we can see that signature has come a long way and has evolved into the form of digital or electronic signature, which can be applied from any location, at any time, all while sitting in front of a screen.
Electronic signatures are legally valid signatures under the Information Technology Act, 2000. eSign is a new type of digital signature that is still gaining popularity and acceptance in India and the world.
More often than not, a change in technology serves as the backbone for future processes associated with that technology.
Thus, it is essential we understand the challenges associated with eSign in India, the solutions to those challenges, and the opportunities that arise from those challenges.
Most people usually resent something new, in this case, it’s new technology. It may take a few more years before people become more acquainted and familiar with electronic signatures.
With over 70% of the Indian population living in non-urban areas, the knowledge, understanding and dire need for electronic signatures is grossly understated.
The availability of electronic signatures is widespread, meaning that an individual can electronically sign a document from any remote location, inside or outside India.
Education and time are the only factors that can pave way for a complete ‘Digital India’ through electronic signatures.
Electronic signatures are not valid on all types of documents. The documents on which electronic signatures can be applied to vary from country to country.
In India, electronic signatures can be used for signing business agreements, founders agreement, GST (Goods and Service Tax) and GSTN (Goods and Services Taxation Network) registration, vendor agreements, etc.
Electronic signatures cannot be applied to wills, transfer of immovable property, power of attorney, a trust, a negotiable instrument or any other document notified by the Government from time to time.
Hopefully, in the next few years, we may see the Government facilitate electronic signatures for the documents it currently can’t be applied to.
Biometric scanners may not always be available, limiting the types of authentication provided.
A biometric scanner authenticates the fingerprint or the iris scan of an individual, matching the same with the Aadhaar database.
Not all organizations can use biometric facilities to enable electronic signatures.
Some of the challenges of electronic signatures have led to innovative discoveries and integration of digital signatures via Aadhaar authentication. These solutions are listed below:
Everyone has an Aadhaar ID, well at least 99% of the population (over 18 years) does. This means that most people will be able to use electronic signatures in India.
The need of the hour is to make people aware of the actual use of electronic signatures, through incentivising the use of eSign and by making it mandatory in certain sectors.
Once people realise the benefits of eSign, for example, an individual in a village can sign a document in any city, authorizing his consent for a service or to an agreement, etc. without ever having to leave his or her home.
Physical signatures create a lot of doubt on the validity and authenticity of the signer.
Electronic signatures have a higher degree of authenticity and individual verification associated with it. When biometric scanners aren’t available, eSign works best.
eSign requires a two-factor authentication involving an individual’s Aadhaar number and mobile number (Aadhaar-enabled).
This means that an individual will not be required to be physically present to apply his or her digital signature to a digital document.
Audit logs are created, which serve as records and proof in a court of law.
This did not exist with physical signatures as physical signatures can be tampered with, documents can be destroyed, lost or altered.
Audit logs keep a digital record of your footprints with respect to your use of your digital signature. Basically, your signature is individual and specific to you.
It cannot be used by another person, just the way a physical signature works.
With eSign, the only way a person can lose his or her signature is by losing Aadhaar number and password, and also the mobile number linked with the Aadhaar.
Generally, everyone has a lock on their mobile device. So hypothetically, if someone has access to both your accounts, only then that individual can electronically sign a document (or documents) on your behalf.
Fear not though, there is a failsafe. Any signature applied or record created is stored online (audit logs) and is traceable to all the parties involved.
So, you can probably change your password, make the signature or document void, and if required, file an FIR at your local police station.
Opportunities With eSign
Not all challenges are problems. Some are actually opportunities buried under the mask of a problem. Some of the opportunities that have opened up through electronic signatures are:
- Multiple parties take too long to sign a document and may not do so correctly. A document has to be physically sent to all the parties that need to sign it (in some cases, witnesses are required), which is tedious. The opportunity that arises out of this is that multiple parties can use electronic signatures to sign documents from remote locations. The creator of the electronic document needs to share access with other parties so that they may affix their eSign on the same document. It takes minutes to sign a document electronically and multiple parties can sign a document in real-time.
- The risk of making a mistake or damaging the document is almost negligible when using electronic signatures. There would be no issue of signature mismatch which is possible with physical signatures.
- There is no need for manually mailing the document to anyone. Multiple copies of electronic documents (that are electronically signed) can be created and stored online or downloaded and can be shared with the authority that requires it at any point in time or kept for future use.
- Paperless is better and always beneficial for the environment. Electronic signatures are paving the way for a greener and paperless economy. Carbon stamps and carbon credits are important to companies as these determine the amount of waste generated by an entity. By switching to electronic signatures and digital documents, away from paper, an entity might be able to better their carbon stamp rating.
eSign: Your Electronic Signature Provider
As we can see, more entities, startups, organizations, corporations, including the Government, are incorporating eSign into their service delivery.
These companies are benefiting from the additional services provided, faster turnaround time, faster payments, streamlined workflow and processes, and better customer satisfaction (to name a few).
To keep up with the competition for effective and efficient service delivery, eSign will become a core component of the service offering for several organizations across different sectors.
eSignDesk.com facilitates eSign for all related services to individuals and companies.