India is a country with a high number of Internet users and a growing digital economy. However, the use of digital signatures in India is still not widespread, and there are reports of misuse of digital signatures. A digital signature is basically an electronic signature that can be used to verify the identity of the sender of a message or document.
What Is a Digital Signature?
After the necessary paperwork is submitted, a Certifying Authority (Pantasign CA, Safescrypt, e Mudhra, Capricorn, Verasys, (n)Code Solutions, IDSign CA) will issue a digital signature certificate online (DSC), which is a computer-generated file.
Digital Signature Certificate (D SC) can be used for authenticating any document digitally, i.e. by signing the document digitally.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Misuse of a Digital Signature Certificate?
*Information Technology Act,2000: Section 66C Punishment for identity theft– A person who acts fraudulently or dishonestly and makes use of the electronic signature, password, or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be
liable to a fine which may extend up to rupees one lakh.
*Section 71 Misrepresentation or suppression of material fact to obtain any license or electronic signature-
1. If a person makes a misrepresentation to the controller or the certifying authority
2. If a person suppresses any material fact from the controller or the certifying authority
*As per Section 73 – Publication of electronic signature, which is false in certain particulars. The following situations shall amount to the publication of false particulars in an electronic certificate:
1. Publication of electronic signature certificate which the certifying authority has not issued.
2. Publication of electronic signature certificate which actual subscriber of the certificate has not accepted.
3.Publication of the electronic signature certificate which is revoked or suspended.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860-
*Section 463 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Forgery. Whoever makes any false documents or false electronic record or part of a document or electronic record, with intent to cause damage or injury, to the public or any person, or to support any claim or title, or to cause any person to part with property, or to enter into any express or implied contract, or with intent to commit fraud or that fraud may be committed, commits forgery.
An explanation for Section 463:
Where any person either fraudulently or dishonestly made, signed, sealed, executed, or transmitted a document or electronic record or its part thereof affixed with an electronic signature.
Where any person without proper authentication alters any document or any record maintained electronically or materially its part thereof, executed or affixed with electronic signature either by himself or by any other person, whether such person is alive or dead at the time of such alteration.
Where any person acts in a fraudulent or dishonest manner by sign, sealing, executing, or altering a document or an electronic record or affixing his or her electronic signature on any electronic record knowing that such person is of unsound mind and the person is unaware about the contents of the signed document or the type of alteration made.
*Section 465 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – punishment for forgery. Whoever commits forgery shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both. This offense is bailable and triable by the Magistrate First Class.
What Safety Measures Should Be Taken to Avoid the Digital Signatures
*Each individual should retain physical possession of the token.
*We must first obtain an authorization letter before signing any documents on our client’s behalf. We ought to carry it out further, for example. A practising chartered accountant signing an ITR or other GST return on behalf of a client is necessary because, in most cases, custody of the token cannot be obtained at the time of filing due to scheduling conflicts. Thus, they ought to get a letter of authorization in addition to its custody.
One of the biggest issues in India is the misuse of digital signatures. People can abuse them in a variety of ways, and doing so can have detrimental effects. It’s critical to understand the potential misuse scenarios associated with digital signatures and to take precautions against them.