Are electronic signatures legal in India?
India’s legal model is a tiered one. This means that Qualified Electronic Signatures are seen as a legal type of e-signature. This doesn’t mean that a non-QES e-Signature can’t be submitted in court, but it will need extra evidence to support it.
India operates a Common Law system, which is based on:
- Judicial decisions are seen as binding
- Laws aren’t always of a written structure
- Few provisions are hinted at into the contract, by law
- Generally, everything is permitted that isn’t expressly prohibited by law
Few provisions are implied into a contract under the common law system – so it’s important to cover all the terms governing the relationship between the parties to a contract in the contract itself. This usually means that contracts are typically longer than one in a civil law country.
The Information Technology Act, (established in 2000) in Indian law highlights that a handwritten signature isn’t always needed for a contract to be considered credible, and that contracts can’t be refused for simply being electronic. They’ll usually be seen as such as long as legally able individuals have reached an agreement (this can be by agreeing verbally, electronically or by physically signing something). Under Section 65B of the Evidence Act (1872), e-signature solutions can be used to give electronic records that are admissible as evidence to support contracts in court.
If legally required, any document can be authenticated by digital signature affixed in a manner prescribed by the Central Government (section 5, ITA).
Further, section 10A of the ITA recognises contracts formed through offer and acceptance by electronic forms or by means of electronic records.