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Overview of eSignature Legality in India
India has legally recognized electronic signatures particularly for online transactions since 2000. The Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act), provides the legal framework for the recognition of electronic records and signatures, giving them the same legal status as their handwritten signatures.
The IT Act defines that any information shall not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability on the ground that it is wholly or partly in an electronic form.
Electronic signature law
Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000 provides for legal recognition of electronic messages in commercial transactions.
Are eSignatures legal, admissible, and enforceable?
Summary of law
eSignatures are legally valid and admissible in the court of law. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) confirms that signed agreements cannot be denied enforceability merely because they are concluded electronically. To prove a valid contract, parties sometimes have to present evidence in court. Under Section 65B of the Evidence Act (1872), eSignature solutions can be used to give electronic records that are admissible as evidence to support contracts in court.
India has tiered eSignature laws that recognize standard eSignatures as legal and enforceable while giving digital signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures.
Following best practices should be followed while signing electronically using an eSignature platform:
- Include a mechanism to verify the linked person signing the document (this could be achieved via a unique email ID of the person or by sending a OTP to the signing party’s mobile phone)
- Have signing party’s consent to do business electronically
- Any changes to the document or signature must be easily detectable after the document has been signed.
- Track progress securely and retain audit trail that logs every transaction
- Final document with the signature should have a tamper evident seal
According to the Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000, eSignatures shall not apply to the following transactions or documents:
- Handwritten negotiable instruments except for cheques
- Handwritten trust deeds documents
- Handwritten wills or any testaments
- Power of attorney, written by hands
- Handwritten contracts for sale or conveyance of immovable property and interest in the property
- Oaths and affidavits
- Statutory declarations