PAN eSign is a recognised electronic signature under the Second Schedule of the IT Act. It allows the signer to authenticate her identity using her PAN number and securely eSign any document.
The signer needs to complete a one time registration process with an eSign Service Provider (ESP). Here the signer needs to submit her PAN details, mobile number and address proof documents, and complete a video eKYC. The ESP will verify the mobile number, email ID and PAN (from the Income Tax database). Once the registration is done, the signing steps are fairly easy. The signer just needs to log into their account with the ESP and simply choose the PAN eSign option to eSign the electronic document.
Though the one-time registration process can be slightly time consuming, the signing steps are much easier once the signer has created her account with the ESP.
Under the Information Technology Act, 2000 of India, the use of electronic signatures, such as PAN eSign, is legally valid for execution of documents. . This has been clearly laid down in Sections 2(1)(ta), 3A, 5 and the Second Schedule of the Act.
The Act specifically defines electronic signatures and sets a 'technologically neutral' reliability standard under Section 3A that the Central Government needs to follow when notifying an electronic signature under the Second Schedule of the IT Act.
In 2015, the Central Government legally recognized Aadhaar eSign as an electronic signature under the Second Schedule - in exercise of its powers under Section 3A of the IT Act.
The Central Government expanded the scope of the Second Schedule beyond just Aadhaar based eSign by issuing Gazette Notification S.O 1119 (E) dated March 1 2019. Under this notification, the phrase “e-authentication technique using Aadhaar e-KYC services” was substituted with “e-authentication technique using Aadhaar or other e-KYC services”. The use of “other eKYC services” permitted the use of electronic signature authenticated via any other form of eKYC beyond Aadhaar eKYC.
Thanks to the expanded scope of the Second Schedule, the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) has introduced PAN eSign.
Under Section 5 of the IT Act, electronic signatures (like PAN eSign) - carry the same legal validity as traditional wet-ink signatures.
Electronic signatures like PAN eSign can therefore be used to legally sign all types of documents.
The only narrow exception - where PAN eSign cannot be used - are documents listed in the First Schedule of the IT Act, 2000.
Here is a handy table which tells you where can you legally use PAN eSign:
The legal enforceability of any eSign type depends on:
- How well it can establish the identity of the signer (Authentication)
- Whether the document can be altered after the signatures are affixed (Integrity)
- Whether the parties can deny their acceptance of the terms and conditions at a later stage (Non-repudiation)
PAN eSign is very easy to enforce because it performs these 3 functions very well.
In addition to the underlying technology, there are certain legal presumptions in favour of PAN eSign which make enforcement even easier:
- Section 67A - if a signer uses PAN eSign to execute a document then it will be presumed that such eSign belonged to the signer herself and not to any other person. The signer cannot later on refute her eSign on the document.
- Section 85A - an agreement which has been executed using PAN eSign will be presumed to have been concluded between the parties and attained finality. This lends certainty as to the finality of the terms and conditions agreed between parties to the agreement.
- Section 85B(1) - it is legally presumed that the document has not been altered once it has been signed using PAN eSign
- Section 85B(2) - if the signer signs a document using PAN eSign, it is presumed that the signer signed it with the intention of signing or approving the document
- Section 85C - it is presumed that the details mentioned in the Electronic Signature Certificate, such as name of the signer, email ID and time of signing is true. This helps in establishing the identity of the person who signed the document.