Digital Signature vs. Electronic Signature


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This post has been written by Mamta Kumari, a law student from Banasthali Vidyapith.


Signature by a person represents his identity. Traditionally signatures were handwritten and are sufficient to indicate one’s assent to any document. But with the innovation of technology and trend of online working in various sectors, large number of transactions is done through online mode which causes transfer of so many documents between the party.So, to make those documents and transactions effective a new mode of assent is emerged where no handwritten signature of a person is needed. As without any signature by online method a risk of fraud and tampering of documents may arise.

The problem can be sought by using digital or electronic mode of signature by a person. People have misconception regarding the similarity of both signatures but both electronic signature and digital signature are different and often used interchangeably.


Under section- 2(1)(p) of Information Technology Act,2000 Digital Signature is defined as-

“digital signature means authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic method or procedure in accordance with the provision of section 3.”

Digital signature is a kind of electronic signature which is more secure than the traditional signature. Digital signature is used for the security of documents which is authorized by the certification authorities as it guarantees the authenticity of the document. With the help of digital signature, it is easier to verify the name of the person who is signing the message digitally. Digital signature allows the person who receives the document to trust the facts that a sender has sent a message and has not been altered during its transit.

Digital signature has the same effects as of real and traditional signature and is used as an agreement to a sent message or document. This signature cannot be forged and is authentic one which are used for the purpose of e-commerce, online financial transactions, and for many more other things.

A digital signature is a mathematical technique which is used to validate the document sent online. It provides the additional assurance to the identity and evidence of origin of the message or the transactions. Digital signature is based on the asymmetric Cryptography which is also known as Public Key Cryptography. Digital signature is a technique which helps in validating the legitimacy of document and transaction. Signature in a digital form is sent in such a way that the computer which will receive the message will be able to decode it.

Feature of Digital Signature

  • Authentication- digital signature help the receiver to know who is the sender of that message or authenticate the source of message.
  • Integrity- a situation may arise that while the transmission of the message, it may gets altered so by this the receiver will be able to determine the originality of the document.
  • Non-Repudiation- under this, the sender of the message cannot deny that he has not sent the message.

Digital Signature Certificate

Digital signature certificate is a method which proves the authenticity of an electronic document and to prove the identity. digital signature certificate is used by the chartered accountants, company secretaries, vendors, bidders etc. this certificate is valid for the maximum tenure of three years.

Section 35 of the Information Technology Act,2000 provides for the digital signature certificate where it states that if any person is interested in getting this certificate may apply to the certifying authority for issuing electronic certificate with the required fees which should not exceed Rs. 25,000 and statement of certificate practice.

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According to section 2(1)(ta) of Information Technology Act,2000 Electronic Signature is defined as-

“Authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of the electronic technique specified in the second schedule and includes digital signature”.

Commonly, we call out electronic signature as E-Signature which serves the same purpose as of traditional signature. By inserting section-3A in the Information Technology (Amendment)Act,2008, the concept of electronic signature is introduced. Electronic signature means authentication of any record or document by the signer to that record through electronic authentication technique as signature  hold significant position in law for signifying the assents of a person.

Electronic signature serves unique and strong protection to the online transaction and indicates the intent of the person signing it. The popularity of electronic signature is their easy to use but one of the disadvantages is they are not regulated like digital signature.

Criteria for valid electronic signature

  • Electronic signature has to be linked with the ID of the person signing it.
  • The person whose electronic signature is created should have the full control over the data which is used to create that signature
  • Validity of electronic signature is based on the audit trail.


Defined under section 2(1)(p) of Information Technology Act,2000 Defined under section 1(1)(ta) of Information Technology Act,2000
Digital Signature is used to secure documents. Electronic signature is used to verify the document.
More authentic than electronic signature. Less authentic that digital signature
Certification of digital signature is valid up to three years  No expiry or validity period.
It has cryptographic system of signature construction Can be in the form of digital handwriting, name typed etc.
More concerned about security of document and transactions. Concerned about intent of signer.
More reliable Less reliable



Under section 3 of Information Technology Act,2000 electronic document or transactions can be authenticated by using digital signature which can be done with the help of asymmetric crypto system and hash functions. The authentication of e-document is important because it ensure that the document or message has not been touched or tampered while in transit and hence confirms the identity of the sender of the message.

Electronic signature is legally acceptable by the Information Technology Act as it recognizes the use of electronic signature for various e-commerce and has granted the same status as of the traditional signature and even accepted like it.


With the aim of making India a paperless economy and emerging trend of online transaction most of the work is done through online mode so, for the stronger protection of documents transmitted online, apart from traditional signature another mode of authenticity should be there. For this sought of problem, digital and electronic signature proves to be best solution to protect the fraud and tampering of those documents and record.


The Information and Technology Act,2000


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