After the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the whole world has shifted to a virtual platform. All the business transactions are required to operate remotely and it led to the signing of documents electronically. In common words, it is known as e-signature. One of the most widely used e-signature is “Digital Signature”.
What is a Digital Signature
A digital signature is a virtual representation of a wet signature (which is signed by pen and paper). The digital signatures are also known as Cryptographic signatures and they are unique to each user. These signatures are coded and encrypted to protect them from tampering and maintaining the authenticity of the document.
Encryption is the cryptographic transformation of clear text (video, audio, data) into cipher text which can’t be used or interpreted by others without the use of the decryption key. It makes it impossible for a hacker to unscramble the mathematical algorithm and obtain the original message.
The digital signature providers follow a Public key Infrastructure (PKI) protocol which enables them to generate two numbers; one number is private and the other is public. When a person signs a document, the private number creates a digital signature. The signature is also marked with the time that the document was signed. It is important to note that if the document is changed after the signature, the digital signature will lose its validity.
There is a misconception that both the digital signature and the electronic signature are identical and they can be used interchangeably. However, there are some notable differences between both of them. Electronic signature is a vast term which encompasses a wide range of signatures, and the digital signature is one such specific type of electronic signature.
Laws Governing Digital Signature in UAE
In the UAE, digital signatures are governed by the Federal Law No. (1) of 2006 (UAE E-Commerce Law). Article 11 of the same law states that a contract will not be unenforceable on the ground that it was formed through electronic communication. This Article gives implicit validity to the digital signatures.
Article 17 of the E-commerce Law recognises electronic signatures made through a “signature tool”. The signature tool is an instrument which is used independently or in participation with other instruments to form electronic signatures. For a valid digital signature, it is essential to demonstrate that-
1). The signature is attributable to a person that provided it.
2) it is possible to verify the identity of a person providing the signature.
3). The person making the signature has full control over the signature tool.
As per the UAE E-Commerce law, the digital signatures can’t be used for some particular purposes. These include:
- Documents related to marriage, divorce and will
- Signing negotiable instruments.
- Deed of immovable property.
- Lease and other dispositions of immovable property.
- Any legal document that requires attestation before a notary public.
The UAE Civil Procedure Code also recognises the legality of Digital signatures, and It specifically provides that the e-signature has the same validity as the physical one. Though UAE doesn’t have a concept of binding precedents, the judgements are considered highly important and the true interpretation of law. The court of cessation in its various rulings have also recognised the validity of digital signatures in the UAE.
Since digital signatures are legally valid in the UAE, special care must be taken before signing a document. For originating the signature, the most secure and authenticated method shall be used to protect it from tampering and other undesired problems.