Aadhaar eSign is a government prescribed method of digitally signing a document and has legal and evidentiary value equivalent to that of wet (hand-written) signatures. In fact, digital signatures including Aadhaar eSigns can have more evidentiary weight than wet signatures.
Now, you might be wondering what exactly digital signatures are and if they are just digital representation of your wet signatures. Well, the answer to that is NO. Digital Signatures are not digital representation of your wet signatures. They work in a decently complex manner.
How Digital Signatures work
A Digital signature uses mathematical algorithms and advanced cryptographic schemes to demonstrate the authenticity of a digital document. A valid digital signature gives the recipient reason to believe that the message/document/data was created by a known sender in a way that they cannot deny having approved it (authentication and non-repudiation) and that the message was not altered in transit (integrity).
Ensuring Authentication, Integrity and Non-repudiation of information is thus the core function of digital signatures. Wet signatures also work to fulfill these three functions but owing to technical advancements, digital signatures are just much more secure, tamper-proof, & convenient way of ensuring all the three.
How digital signatures exactly manage to do these functions more effectively than wet signatures will be dealt in a later post. But needless to say, digital signatures have assumed tremendous importance worldwide over the last two decades and continue to be used for digital business documentation at a massive scale.
Digital signatures have been in use in India for almost two decades now. A lot of governmental filings related to operations and management of Companies in India, need to be carried out through digital signing by the authorised representatives of the Companies. You might have come across your Accountants, Company Secretaries using pen-drive/dongle based digital signatures for such filings.
Aadhaar eSign is also just another method of digital signing but one which is more more scalable than traditional dongle-based digital signatures. To procure a dongle based digital signature, one has to apply to one of the registered Certifying Authority by going through a physical KYC (Know-Your-Customer) process and then upon payment of a certain sum, the Authority issues you the dongle within a few days. To be able to digitally sign a document, you need to possess the dongle physically along with a compatible computer and a compatible software which can digitally sign the document/information.
While this entire process still helps you to keep your documentation/data digital and share such authenticated data digitally, this method is definitely not suitable to scale to a billion people in a country like India. Neither most of the citizens can, nor do they have the willingness to go through this process and procure a digital signature dongle.
Why Aadhaar eSign provides a way forward?
Aadhaar eSign is a revolutionary methodology which ensures that 1.2 billion Indians, lakhs of businesses, governmental departments & ministries, judiciary and international entities can take advantage of the digital signing technologies in an fast, convenient and cost-effective manner.
Aadhaar eSign is a completely law compliant method of digital signing and the infrastructure for Aadhaar eSign is provided by the UIDAI and the Controller of Certifying Authorities, Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt. of India through intermediaries known as eSign Service Providers (ESPs) and Application Service Providers (ASPs).
Aadhaar eSign works over the UIDAI provided Aadhaar eKYC services, eliminating the need for physical KYC processes and issuance of a dongle. Through Aadhaar eSign, every time a transaction request is made, KYC authentication happens in realtime through Aadhaar eKYC and a Digital Signature Certificate is issued for one-time use for digitally signing the information provided in the transaction request. The user does not need to have access to any special device or software and can sign a document using an ASPs application. The signing happens through utilisation of the servers of ASPs, ESPs, CCA and UIDAI.
The user just needs to consent to performing an eSign and authenticate himself or herself using their Aadhaar number and OTP/fingerprint. The signed document is then provided to both the user and the ASP and can be further shared as per business needs of any of them. The digital signature and their keys are deleted from the servers after the completion of the transactions and extensive audit logs are maintained by all parties for evidentiary related needs in the future.
Grey Swift Private Limited, the parent company of Leegality, is a registered Application Service Provider for Aadhaar eSign. Using its advanced Documentation Gateway, business and individuals can take advantage of this revolutionary digital signing technique and automate optimise and digitize their documentation processes.
Also published on Medium.