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Rules on Electronic Signatures in Bangladesh

April 27, 2022

In this age of automation, digitalization, and globalization, signing a document remotely or electronically is gaining momentum across the world, with various business deals and crucial documents signed through electronic means. Electronic signing is faster, better, smoother, more secure, and of course, more eco-friendly than the traditional signing method. Anyone from anywhere can sign a document in the blink of an eye.

Interest in using this new technology is growing rapidly in Bangladesh. However, despite several pieces of legislation governing electronic signatures—the Information & Communication Technology Act 2006 (the “ICT Act”), the Information Technology (Certifying Authority) Rules 2010, the National Information and Communication Technology Policy 2018, the Certification Practice Statement published by the Office of the Controller of Certifying Authorities, and the recently published E-Sign Guidelines for the Certifying Authority 2020 (the “E-Sign Guidelines”)—they are still not well recognized in Bangladesh. In this article we’ll walk you through the legal paradigm of electronic signatures in Bangladesh.

Definition of Electronic Signature

Section 2, subsection 1 of the ICT Act defines an electronic signature as data in an electronic form that can affix the signatory uniquely and identify the signature, and any alteration made in the data thereafter.

Note that the Bengali version of the ICT Act refers to “electronic signature” and the English version of the same act uses the term “digital signature”—the two terms refer to the same thing but for purposes of this article, will follow the Bengali version. On that subject, there are various other ways this technology may be referred to in different regulations, such as e-sign, electronic sign, or cloud sign.

Legal Framework of Electronic Signature Technology

Chapter 2, Section 5 of the ICT Act states that “Any subscriber may authenticate an electronic record by affixing his signature.” To make it clear, a “subscriber” means an individual who uses electronic signature technology to sign an electronic record, electronic content, or electronic document.[1]

Section 7 of the ICT Act discusses the legal recognition of an electronic signature; with some exceptions, documents can be authenticated by electronic signature. Section 8 goes on to state that the signing of any form, application, or document for a license, permit, sanction, approval, etc. from the government and its agencies can be done by electronic signature.

In order to use electronic signatures in Bangladesh, an electronic signature certificate must be obtained from a certifying authority (“CA”), per Section 36 of the ICT Act. At present, there are six CAs in Bangladesh who have the authority to provide an electronic signature service. An individual who wishes to subscribe to an electronic signature service must open an account with a CA. The applicant will need to provide two passport-sized color photos, an attested copy of their national ID card or passport, and documents proving their address to the CA. After reviewing the application, the CA will open an account within 5-7 working days and provide a crypto token and software access to the subscriber. After setting up the account, the subscriber downloads the software and receives a PIN, which will be used to sign documents digitally.

The E-Sign Guidelines introduced an advanced E-sign system, where live photo verification, fingerprint verification, location verification, PIN and OTP (one time password), and an E-KYC (Know Your Customer) system will be added in future.

The Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms, the prime regulatory authority for registering and regulating companies and businesses in Bangladesh accepts electronic signatures. They have a sample format of how to use them on their website, which can be accessed from this link.

[1] Point no. 2, paragraph two, page 5 of the E-Sign Guidelines.