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Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) of different types

(This article elucidates on what is digital signature, different types of digital signature, digital signature certificate, who issues digital signature certificate and what is USB token)

What is the digital signature?

Digital signature is a digital code generated (electronic signature) to validate the authenticity and sender’s identity of an electronically transmitted document.  Like physical documents are signed manually, the Digital Signature is used for electronically transmitted documents like MCA/ ROC filing, e- tendering, e-procurement, Income Tax e-filing, Foreign Trade, EPFO, and Trademark, sending and receiving digitally signed and encrypted emails lieu of the manual signature.

What is Digital Signature certificate?

Digital signature certificates (DSC) are the electronic format equivalent of physical or paper certificates of Digital Signatures just like driving license, passport etc. DSC serves as a proof of identity to access information or services on the Internet or to sign certain documents digitally. A digital signature certificate can have only one email address and the certificate is explicitly associated with the exact host and domain name.

Are there different types of Digital Signature Certificates?

There are three types of Digital Signature Certificates viz. Class 1, class 2, and class 3. The validation process of Class 1 certificate is based only on a valid e-mail ID and it does not involve direct verification. Therefore class 1 certificates do not hold any legal validity. The Class 2 certificates are issued after the identification of a person is verified against a trusted, pre-verified database.  For class 3 certificates, one has to present himself or herself in front of a *Registration Authority (RA) for proving his/ her identity. (*A Registration Authority (RA) is the authorized agent of the Certifying Authority who collects the application forms and related documents for Digital Signature Certificates. RA verifies the information submitted for DSC and approves or rejects the application based on the results of the verification process. Under the provisions of IT Act 2000, Digital Signatures of class 2 & class 3 (highest level) are legally admissible in a Court of Law.

Who issues Digital Signature Certificates?

A licensed Certifying Authority (CA) issues the Digital signatures under Section 24 of the Indian IT-Act 2000. Any one of the proposed directors must obtain a Class-II or Class III Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) from an MCA-authorized agency to use the electronic filing system of the MCA 21. The following trusted CAs (Certifying Authorities) can issue a DSC that is recognized by MCA.

  • (1).Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), (
  • (2). National Informatics Center (NIC), (
  • (3).IDRBT Certifying Authority,(
  • (4).SafeScrypt CA Services, (
  • (5). (n) Code Solutions CA, (
  • (6).MTNL Trust Line, (
  • (7) E-MUDHRA and (
  • (8).*Customs & Central Excise (*Does not issue DSCs to persons other than those from the Department).

You can approach any one of the above seven CAs for getting Digital Signature Certificate. The charges for obtaining digital signature certificate are not uniform; it varies depending upon the CA who issued the DSC.

What is USB token?

The charges levied usually include the cost of a physical USB token and the certificate itself. (The terms “USB token”, “e-token”, “dongle” and “digital signature token” is a hardware used for the password protected digital signature storage (look like a Pen drive but it is different).

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Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as a professional advice under any circumstance. It is clarified to the readers that the contents provided in this write-up are intended for general information only and cannot be relied upon for real-time professional facts. If help/clarification is required, readers are advised to refer relevant provisions of law and also to take the advice of the qualified professionals like a Company secretary, Charted Accountant, etc. before applying or accepting any of the points mentioned above. The author or the website accepts no responsibility whatsoever caused by the use of any information provided in this article and shall not be liable for any losses, claims or damages which may arise because of the contents of this post.

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