Digital Signature Certificate (DSC)

A Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is necessary to submit various online forms to the Government of India. It is used to sign electronic documents, emails, and other digitally transmitted documents. They enhance enhance security using encryption technology. DSCs are predominantly utilised when businesses need to digitally sign online documents, securely authenticate the signature, and validate the signed copy.

A Digital Signature Certificate (DSC) is a secure digital key that is issued by the Certifying Authorities (CA) for the purpose of validating and certifying the identity of the person holding this certificate. Digital Signatures make use of the public key encryptions to create the signatures.

A DSC contains information about the user’s name, pin code, country, email address, date of issuance of certificate and name of the certifying authority. The DSCs are usually valid for one to two years. However, they can be renewed before the expiry period.

Digital Signature Certificate Advantages

  • Authentication: Helpful in authenticating the personal information details of the individual holder when conducting business online.
  • Reduced cost and time: Instead of signing the hard copy documents physically and scanning them to send them via e-mail, you can digitally sign the PDF files and send them much more quickly. A DSC holder does not have to be physically present to conduct or authorize a business.
  • Data integrity: Documents that are signed digitally cannot be altered or edited after signing, which makes the data safe and secure. Government agencies often ask for these certificates to cross-check and verify the business transaction.
  • Authenticity of documents: Digitally signed documents give confidence to the receiver to be assured of the signer’s authenticity. They can take action on the basis of such documents without getting worried about the documents being forged.

Importance of DSC for Fulfilling Statutory Compliances

Individuals and entities who are required to get their accounts audited have to file their income tax return compulsorily using a digital signature. Furthermore, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has made it mandatory for companies to file all reports, applications, and forms using a digital signature only.

Under GST also, a company can get registered only by verifying the GST application through a digital signature. The use of a digital signature is necessary even for filing all applications, amendments and other related forms.

Certifying Authorities for Issuance of a Digital Signature Certificate

The Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) has appointed Certifying Authorities (CA) for issuing DSC in India. The Office of the Controller of Certification Agencies (CCA) has given authority to 15 CAs to issue DSCs to persons.

Types of DSCs


Sign

A person can use Sign Certificates for signing a document. It can be affixed to a PDF, files or documents for GST returns submission, income tax returns, MCA online forms and other web-based services. It validates the integrity of the document and authenticates the user’s identity. It assures the receiver that the data mentioned is unaltered and the document is untampered.

Encrypt

A person can use the Encrypt Certificate to encrypt files, documents or other sensitive and confidential data. DSC encryption is for confidential documents and data. It helps enterprises and companies to encrypt and upload documents on web portals. This certificate can also be used to encrypt personal data and send it securely. Encrypt DSC is suitable for e-commerce documents, legal documents, e-tender filing documents and other confidential records.

Sign and Encrypt

A person can use the Sign and Encrypt Certificate for both signing and encrypting purposes. It is usually used for filing government documents, forms and applications. It is suitable for those users who need to maintain and authenticate the confidentiality of the data exchanged.

Classes of DSC

The type of applicant and the purpose for which the Digital Signature Certificate is obtained define the kind of DSC one must apply for, depending on the need. There are three types of Digital Signature certificates issued by the certifying authorities.

Class 1 Certificates

These are issued to individual/private subscribers and are used to confirm the user’s name and email contact within the database of the certifying authority.

Class 2 Certificates

These are issued to the authorities signatories for the purpose of e-filing forms on the government portal, such as the Ministry Of Corporate Affairs (MCA) website, income tax website, GST website, etc. However, from 01.01.2021, the Controller of Certifying Authority has instructed to discontinue Class 2 Certificates, and Class 3 Certificates will be issued in place of Class 2 Certificates.

Class 3 Certificates

These certificates are used in online participation/bidding in e-auctions and online tenders anywhere in India. The vendors who wish to participate in the online tenders must have a Class 3 digital signature certificate.

Since CCA has discontinued Class 2 Certificates from 01.01.2021, every person who needs to sign Registrar of Companies (ROC) forms, customs filing, income tax forms, patent and trademark filing, GST applications and other government forms online must obtain Class 3 Certificates.

How to get a digital signature certificate?

  • Visit any of the CA websites, select the DSC Class 3 registration/application on their homepage and proceed to fill out the form.
  • You need to fill in the below necessary details on the DSC application form: - Class of the DSC, Validity, Type: Only sign or sign and encrypt, Applicant name and contact details, Residential address, GST number and identity details of proof documents, Declaration, Document as proof of identity, Document as proof of address, Attestation officer, Payment details.
  • Next, upload your recent photograph and e-sign the declaration.
  • Upload the required documents. However, if the CAs are offering Aadhaar eKYC-based authentication, you can select this option. If you select this option, you do not have to upload any supporting documents. You can also directly approach the CAs with original supporting documents and self-attested copies of the original documents.
  • Make the payment for the issuance of the DSC and submit the form.
  • CAs will verify your application and documents and issue the DSC electronically.

Documents Required for Submitting a DSC Application

  • Aadhaar card
  • PAN card
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Address proof

How to check the validity of a digital signature certificate?

  • Open the USB token tools
  • Click on the ‘Login’ button
  • Enter the token password
  • Click on your certificate name
  • The certificate will open. Click on the ‘Details’ tab
  • The details of your certificate will be displayed, including the validity details of the certificate
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