What is a Digital Signature Certificate?
A Digital Signature Certificate is the electronic equivalent of a physical certificate such as a passport, PAN card, driver’s license, etcetera. These certificates are used to validate and prove the identity of the person affixing the digital signature. Many government forms require individuals to affix a DSC with documents as proof of authenticity of the document. For instance, every document that is to be filed on the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) wesbite, even filing for company registration, requires a DSC. Hence individuals or entities who want to file e-forms need a Digital Signature Certificate.
Generally, it takes a maximum of an hour for the issuance of the Digital Certificate with all the documents ready. A Digital Signature Certificate is valid for 1 or 2 years, depending on the class of the certificate. Post that, the same needs to be renewed.
Who grants a DSC
The Information Technology Act, 2000, provides for a DSC. It’s under the IT act that the Controller of certifying authority (CCA) was created, which appoints Certifying Agencies/Authorities to issue Digital Signature Certificates. The Certifying Authority is the only person who has the authority to issue class 3 Digital Signature Certificates.
Eligibility for a DSC
- To apply for a digital certificate, the applicant first has to submit a DSC application form. This form has to be duly filled by the applicant.
- The applicant is required to provide a photo ID proof such as Aadhar card.
- The applicant is also required to produce an address proof, such as a utility bill.
The DSC application form is available on the website of the certifying authority, and it’s to be filled out online itself.
The Types Of DSC
As of 2022, there are 2 types of Digital Signature Certificates:
- Class 1: This type of Digital Signature Certificate is only for individuals; no businesses or entities can use it. It verifies the name and email address of the individuals.
- Class 3: This kind of Digital Signature Certificate can be utilized by both individuals and entities. The purpose of this class of Digital Signature Certificates is for individuals or entities to participate in online auctions for government tenders as well as to file their tax returns etc. Earlier there used to be a Class 2 Digital Signature Certificate that was specific for entities and was required for them for filing tax returns. However, as of 2021, based on a notice issues by the CCA in November 2020, no more DSC Class 2 shall be issued, the functions that were served by DSC class 2 have been brought under the Digital Signature Certificate of Class 3 itself.
Procedure For Applying For A DSC
- The first thing that you must do is to log in on the CCA website, and under the ‘digital certificate services’ section, select the type of entity that you are applying for. The options are individuals, organizations, etc.
- Step two requires you to download the digital signature certificate form and fill it. The form includes information such as the type of document you shall be providing as proof of identity, GST number, details regarding residential address etc. Additionally, a picture and your signature need to be affixed under the declaration part of this form.
- Next, you have to provide proof of identity and address. For example, if in the form you have specified Aadhar card as your proof of identity , you will have to provide a copy of that. The copy of the documents needs to have the sign and seal of an attesting officer.
- The fourth step is making a payment for the Digital Signature Certificate. This payment has to be made via a demand draft or cheque in the name of your local registration authority.
- The final step requires you to submit the form and the demand draft or cheque to your local registration authority. You may submit the form via post or in person.
Altering or amending the DSC
To make any changes to the Digital Signature Certificate or the details related to it, the following procedure needs to be followed:
- Log in to the CCA website.
- Go to the ‘change details’ option provided.
- Fill in the required details of the Digital Signature Certificate and click on ‘renewed’ or ‘changed’ Digital Signature Certificates.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the DSC and why do I need to have it?
A Digital Signature Certificate is the electronic equivalent of a physical certificate such as a passport, PAN card, driver’s license, etcetera. These certificates are used to validate and prove the identity of the person affixing the digital signature. Many government forms require individuals to affix a DSC with documents as proof of authenticity of the document. For instance, every document that is to be filed on the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) website, even filing for company registration, requires a DSC.
2. When do I need to re-register my DSC?
Every DSC has an expiry date, that is specified on it. When that date passes, the DSC is considered expired and needs to be re-newed, that is when you need to re-register your DSC. Alternatively, if you want to make changed to your DSC, even then you need to re-register your DSC.
3. How do I get a DSC?
You can get a valid DSC from a certifying authority by going on the CCA website and using their e-filing portal.
4. Does a DSC need a PAN card?Is the DSC always registered against the PAN of a user?
Unless the applicant is an NRI, every DSC needs a PAN card; no DSC can be registered without a PAN. For NRIs, the DSC is registered against their email ID.
5. Is the DSC mandatory for everyone to have?
For certain services like e-verification of returns filed by a companies, political parties and for certain users such as persons whose accounts are required to be audited under Section 44AB of the Income Tax Act, DSC is mandatory. Otherwise, DSC is generally is optional.