Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) are the digital equivalent (that is electronic format) of physical or paper certificates. Examples of physical certificates are drivers' licenses, passports or membership cards. Certificates serve as proof of identity of an individual for a certain purpose; for example, a driver's license identifies someone who can legally drive in a particular country. Likewise, a digital certificate can be presented electronically to prove your identity, to access information or services on the Internet or to sign certain documents digitally.
Like physical documents are signed manually, electronic documents, for example e-forms are required to be signed digitally using a Digital Signature Certificate.
A licensed Certifying Authority (CA) issues the digital signature. Certifying Authority (CA) means a person who has been granted a license to issue a digital signature certificate under Section 24 of the Indian IT-Act 2000.
The list of licensed CAs along with their contact information is available on the MCA portal (www.mca.gov.in).
The different types of Digital Signature Certificates are: Class 2: Here, the identity of a person is verified against a trusted, pre-verified database.
Class 3: This is the highest level where the person needs to present himself or herself in front of a Registration Authority (RA) and prove his/ her identity.
DSC of Class 2 and Class 3 category issued by a licensed Certifying Authority (CA) needs to be obtained for efiling on the MCA Portal.
The cost of obtaining a digital signature certificate may vary as there are many entities issuing DSCs and their charges may differ.
The time taken by CAs to issue a DSC may vary from three to seven days.
The Certifying Authorities are authorized to issue a Digital Signature Certificate with a validity of one or two years.
Digital Signatures are legally admissible in a Court of Law, as provided under the provisions of IT.