Digital signatures enabled through Electronics Transaction Act | Daily News

Digital signatures enabled through Electronics Transaction Act

Jayantha Fernando
Jayantha Fernando

Digital signatures have been enabled by the Electronics Transaction Act of 2017 (ETA), are in wide usage in key operations by the government, and the legal framework allows private entities to contract amongst themselves with appropriate technology with the signatures being legally valid in Sri Lankan law.

Director Sri Lanka CERT Jayantha Fernando noted that the ETA had overriding provisions over existing law in the country and that the general understanding was that digital signatures would be legally valid within Sri Lanka. Fernando was speaking during a webinar on Electronic Signatures and Agreement Cloud organized by DocuSign’s local strategic partner, Bridge Advisory and Consulting which also operates in other verticals in the financial sphere.

“The Electronic Transactions Act has established the facilitation of digital contracts as being legally valid. It applies for all transactions except for those that have been excluded in the digital transactions act which requires physical verification like last wills.”

Fernando added, “It cuts across all other laws that require signing and verification. It is all-encompassing. It has provisions that override other laws giving legal recognition for writing. It gives relevance to information provided in digital messages,” he stressed.

He said the legal framework currently allows for an automated contract scenario which does not require human intervention.

Fernando assured the wider legal fraternity that the use of a wide spectrum of digital technology would be considered valid by the legal system. He noted that the drafting of the law created a ‘Technology Neutral Frontier’.

“Various technologies would be legally valid, given the method used would identify the party involved and the method is reliable and appropriate for the purpose for which the communication was generated.”

Those requiring further assurances on their legal validity may opt to choose a ‘Certificate Service Provider’ that has been registered under Sri Lanka CERT. The first Service Provider registered under CERT was done back in 2020. He however stressed that electronic signatures in other forms would also be valid provided that they are appropriate. Fernando said the validity of electronic signatures was proven by a ruling by the Attorney General, a directive by the PCOI on Customs Procedure, and the recent mobile onboarding by the Colombo Stock Exchange.

The law is based on a United Nations Convention on the usage of Electronic Communications in International Contracts. The law ensures functional equivalence between ‘writing’, an ‘original’ document and ‘signature’. The international convention prevents the discrimination of communications based on the technology utilized.

Sri Lanka was an early signatory and adopter of the international standard and the first in South Asia and the second in APEC after Singapore. (DP)

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