By- Karnika Seth, Cyberlaw expert

Section 4 of the Indian IT Act, 2000 confers legal recognition to electronic records .Paper based documents are equated with electronic records so long as they are made available in electronic form and are accessible so as to be usable for a subsequent reference. Section 5 confers legal recognition to digital signatures and equates it with handwritten signatures. The authentication of such digital signatures will be ensured by means of digital signatures affixed in such manner as the Central Government prescribes.

Section 6 aims to eliminate red tapism and promote use of electronic records and digital signatures in Government and its agencies.It provides for filing documents online with governmental authorities, grant of licenses /approvals and receipt/payment of money. Section 7 allows retention of electronic records akin to paper based records to fulfill legal requirement of retention of records.

Incase of the electronic as well as the traditionally printed gazette, it is stipulated that publication of rules, regulations and notifications in the Electronic Gazette shall also be legally recognized[1]. Therefore, where the publication of any rule, regulation, byelaw and notification is required to be published in the Official Gazette, such requirement is satisfied if the same is published electronically. Further, where such Official Gazette is published in both electronic as well as printed form, the date of publication shall be the date of publication of the Official Gazette that was first published, whatever may be the form. At the same time , no person can insist on electronic filing of returns or records, as the Government needs sufficient time to set up set infrastructure facilities that will enable them to conduct electronic transactions in the future[2].

The Central Government has been conferred with the power to make rules in respect of Digital Signature, interalia, the type, manner, format in which digital signature is to be affixed and procedure of the way in which the digital signature is to be processed[3].

Recently, implementing the e-governance provisions, the Indian railways has started the internet reservation facility on its website wherein reservations can be made online through use of credit cards. Also, the Ministry of company affairs has launched its online filing automated system MCA21 for establishing of new companies in India.

[1]. Section 8.
[2]. Section 9.
[3]. Section 10.