Wet Signatures Vs E-signatures (Virtual, Aadhaar, DSC)

Electronic signatures (e-signatures) are a legal way to sign documents electronically. They're essentially the digital equivalent of a handwritten signature and they can be used to sign just about any kind of document, from contracts and agreements to invoices and purchase orders. Whereas, Wet signature refers to the traditional method of signing a physical document with pen and ink.

While wet signatures involve the physical act of signing a document, electronic signatures represent a digital method of affirming one's agreement. Understanding when to use e-signatures or wet signatures is crucial in modern contract management. Knowing the right fit for each situation is the key.

Also check out: Digital Signature Feature

Head to Head - The Key Differences:

Wet Signatures Virtual Signature Aadhaar Signature DSC
A handwritten signature using pen and ink on a physical document. They can be created by drawing the signature electronically or by selecting a computer-generated template of the signer's name. An electronic signature relying on Aadhaar details for authentication. DSCs rely on a verified identity stamp issued by a trusted authority and specialized software to create an unforgeable electronic signature.
Represents a physical manifestation of consent or agreement. Virtual Signatures are electronic representations of a person's physical wet-ink signature used to sign electronic documents Utilizes Aadhaar number and biometric/OTP authentication. Based on hash system or Cryptographic system which uses asymmetric cryptography to ensure integrity, authenticity, and non-repudiation of electronic documents.
Commonly used for physical documents and contracts. Primarily used for digital and online transactions.
Security varies and can be forged or copied. Audit Trail ensures that any attempt to alter or modify the document will be immediately detected as the signature verification will fail. Uses Aadhaar biometrics or OTP for authentication and enhancing security. Uses asymmetric cryptography and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to validate the signer's identity and ensure document integrity
Generally legally valid in most countries, including India. Legally recognized in India under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Less convenient for international or remote transactions. Offers convenience, especially for remote or digital transactions.
May require physical presence or mailing of documents. Eliminates the need for physical presence.
Physical documents with wet signatures may require additional handling, storage, and potential scanning for digital record-keeping. Documents are typically in digital format, easy to store, share, and manage electronically.

But are e-signatures always the best option?

Not necessarily. Wet signatures still hold legal weight in certain situations, such as wills, powers of attorney and some real estate transactions. However, as technology advances and legal frameworks adapt, e-signatures are steadily gaining wider acceptance and recognition. Ultimately, the choice between an e-signature and a wet signature depends on the specific context and legal requirements.

There are specific instances where the use of wet signatures is mandatory:

  • Immoveable property contracts require wet signatures.
  • Power of Attorney documents under the Powers of Attorney Act, 1882, cannot be electronically signed.
  • Wills and testament dispositions are not allowed to be electronically signed under the Indian Succession Act, 1925.
  • Negotiable instruments, except for cheques, as per Section 13 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, cannot be electronically signed.
  • Trust deeds must use wet signatures asper Section 3 of the Indian Trusts Act.

In conclusion, the choice between wet signatures and electronic signatures depends on the specific needs, legal requirements and the nature of the document in question. While electronic signatures offer convenience, efficiency and are legally recognized in many jurisdictions, there are instances where wet signatures remain mandatory, particularly in sensitive matters such as property contracts, powers of attorney, wills, negotiable instruments and trust deeds.

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