Standard Virtual Signature
Signers can either draw their signature electronically or choose from a computer-generated template of their name, which can be placed anywhere on the electronic document as per the user’s choice.
Virtual Signatures, by default, do not have the technical safeguards to clearly establish the identity of the signer and cannot detect any changes made to the document once after the eSign is affixed.
(To know more about advanced easy-to-enforce virtual signatures, read our note on Secure Virtual Signatures)
By virtue of Section 10A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, signing an electronic document with a virtual signature is a legally valid mode of entering into a contract.
Section 10A confers legal validity to eContracts in India. It does this by categorically stating that a contract cannot be denied enforceability just because it was executed electronically. Electronic means, such as a virtual signature, can therefore be used to legally sign all types of documents.
However, there are 2 narrow exceptions to this rule. Virtual signatures cannot be used to eSign the following documents:
- Documents listed in the First Schedule of the IT Act, 2000.
- A document which must mandatorily be signed under any law, rule or regulation.
Here is a handy table which tells you where can you legally use standard virtual signatures:
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)
A standard virtual signature can be tough to enforce because it doesn’t perform these 3 functions well.