- Digital signatures have existed since 2000 in India. However, because of their format, they were inaccessible to most of India.
- Aadhaar eSign changed the game for digital signatures. Signers can eSign with just a valid Aadhaar number and an Aadhaar linked phone/email ID.
- The sheer simplicity of usage of Aadhaar eSign has made it accessible to most Indians. Despite its simplicity, Aadhaar eSign retains the security and enforcement benefits of standard digital signatures.
- Read this blog for a comprehensive deep dive into Aadhaar eSign
Aadhaar eSign is a government prescribed method of digitally signing a document and has legal and evidentiary value equivalent to that of wet (hand-written) signatures. In fact, digital signatures including Aadhaar eSigns can have more evidentiary weight than wet signatures.
Now you might be thinking - what’s the big deal? Haven’t digital signatures existed for ages now? What’s special about Aadhaar eSign as a digital signature?
Before we examine this question, let’s do a quick recap of digital signatures - because Aadhaar eSign is, first and foremost, a form of digital signature.
How do digital signatures work?
A signature is essentially a signal of acceptance or agreement usually affixed on a document to ensure:
- The identity of the parties signing the document is clear (authentication)
- The document cannot be changed unilaterally after signatures are affixed (integrity)
- The parties agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of the document they are signing - and cannot deny it at a later stage (non repudiation)
A digital signature uses principles of encryption to secure a document and ensure that authentication, integrity and non repudiation needs are met in much more secure and effective fashion than traditional, wet-ink signatures.
We’ve covered HOW exactly digital signatures achieve this in a separate, long read about digital signatures.
Digital signatures have been in use in India for almost two decades now. But they’ve been confined to a limited set of use cases.
Governmental filings related to operations and management of Companies in India, need to be carried out through digital signing by the authorized representatives of the Companies. Similarly you might have come across your Accountants, Company Secretaries using pen-drive/dongle based digital signatures for such filings.
But why did they never scale past these limited use cases?
The problem with digital signatures before Aadhaar eSign
For a long time, the concept of digital signatures in India was limited to USB-token based electronic signatures known as Digital Signature Certificate Tokens or DSC Tokens.
But DSC Tokens are a big problem:
- DSC Tokens are hard to procure: A signer has to go through a long video KYC process and then pay at least INR 1000 to order a DSC Token. And even after that - they had to wait a few days to receive the actual token
- It’s hard to sign with a DSC Token: Signing with a DSC Token is a pain. It’s a multi-step process that requires a very oddly specific form of tech literacy to execute (seriously, even tech savvy people take a few tries before they can fully use a DSC token). The process is also error ridden - DSC Tokens client software is known to break down at the drop of a hat.
- Signers have to carry them around: A DSC Token is a physical device. So if a signer doesn’t have one at the time of signing - they can’t digitally sign it! Who carries a USB device around wherever they go?
- DSC tokens don’t work on mobile: India is a mobile-first country . That’s not a cliche but a hard fact. What’s the use of digital signing if it can’t be done on the primary digital device used by most connected Indians
This method is definitely not suitable to scale to 1 billion + people in a country like India. Most citizens either cannot, or are unwilling, to go through these hoops and procure a digital signature token.
That’s where Aadhaar eSign fills the gap
How Aadhaar eSign works
Introduced in 2015, Aadhaar eSign is a legally compliant mode of electronic signature in India that allows anyone to sign as long as they have:
- An Aadhaar Number
- A phone or email linked to that Aadhaar number (biometrics also works if they have access to a biometric authentication device)
Armed with the above, the Aadhaar eSign process becomes a super-easy flow:
- Signer receives a signing link on phone, email or on an application they are using (e.g Netbanking app, loan app etc.)
- Signer views document and gives consent to Aadhaar eSign
- Signer is redirected to eSign Service Provider Page
- Signer enters Aadhaar number and authenticates OTP/Biometric/IRIS
- Upon successful authentication - the eSign is affixed on the document.
- Signer receives eSigned document via email or SMS
The above process can be completed in under a minute!
Don’t believe that? Well, try it out for yourself right now
Why Aadhaar eSign is pathbreaking
The Aadhaar eSign process is revolutionary because:
- It doesn’t need to be “procured”: Anyone with an Aadhaar and a linked phone/email can eSign with Aadhaar. No complex “ordering” or procurement process.
- It’s easy to eSign with Aadhaar: Anyone with basic knowledge of how to use a phone and enter OTPs can eSign with Aadhaar
- It doesn’t require a physical device: Aadhaar eSign is remote and device-less. Anyone can eSign from anywhere as long as they have their phone with them
- It works on mobile: Most Indians access the Internet through mobile devices. Aadhaar eSign is therefore well tailored for the common Indian’s digital habits
This method is definitely very scalable for 1 billion + citizens - and has the potential to revolutionize the way paperwork is executed in India.
Still have questions regarding Aadhaar eSign? You can check Aadhaar eSign FAQs to get more clarity.
Learn more about Aadhaar eSign
Interested in diving deeper into the world of Aadhaar eSign? Here’s 2 links:
Want to use Aadhaar eSign for your business?
Are you interested in integrating Aadhaar eSign into your business processes? Leegality - through our parent company, Grey Swift Private Ltd. - is a registered Application Service Provider for Aadhaar eSign.
However we don’t just stop at Aadhaar eSign. The Leegality Platform also solves for ALL the document execution needs of a modern Indian business like - eStamp, Contracting Compliance, Document Security, Signer Verification and Document Automation
More than 1500+ Indian businesses - like Federal Bank, HDFC, ICICI Lombard, SBI Cards, Bank of Baroda, HDB Financial, Axis Finance and Razorpay among others - are currently using Leegality to digitally transform their documentation.
Will you be next?
If you still have questions regarding Aadhaar eSign, you can check our Aadhaar eSign FAQ page and clear your doubts. Alternatively, you can also check out Digital Stamping FAQ, Virtual Sign FAQ and Section 65B FAQ to get more insights.