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Report No. 60

3.63. Section 3(35)-"month".-

The Act defines a "month" as a month reckoned according to the British calendar. The definition is inaccurate. The word "British" should, in this definition, be replaced by the word "Gregorian".1 "British" is not an accurate description.2

The English, Australian and Canadian Act define a "month" simply as a calendar month. But it may be noted that there are no other calendars in vogue in these countries. It may be noted that the calendar now used for civil purposes throughout the world is called the Gregorian Calendar,3 after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in the 16th century. The immediate predecessor of the Gregorian calendar was the Julian calendar (called after Julius Caesar). That calendar itself has a history, and can be traced ultimately to Egypt. Throughout the Republican period, in Rome, the year normally contained 355 days, the months being 29 or 30 days in length.

An additional month, consisting sometimes of 27 days and sometimes of 28 days, was inserted, when considered necessary, after 23 February, the five last days of February being then omitted. The additional month was generally inserted in alternate years, but the decision as to when it should be inserted lay with the pontifices. The pontifices often used to manipulate unscrupulously the lunar calendar to their own advantage, if it was desired to prolong or shorten the term of office of a magistrate or to arrange an election some time that appeared favourable, the calendar was adjusted to suit.

It was to end such abuses that Julius Caesar decided upon a reform of the calendar; at the time of his pontificate, the seasons had shifted about two months from their proper positions. He called in the assistance of the Greek astronomer, Sosigenes of Alexandria; and the calendar was modified into what is very much like its present form. (Sosigenes himself took the idea of a solar calendar from Egypt). The lunar month was thrown over completely. The normal year was to contain 365 days, an additional day being inserted every fourth year, thus giving an average length of the year of 3651/4 days, in close agreement with the length of the tropical year. The calendar year now became, for the first time, purely solar, and there was no tendency for the seasons to drift about.

1. Compare section 25 of the Limitation Act.

2. Compare also the definition in the Jammu and Kashmir General Clauses Act, 1877 (20 of 1877), which uses the word "Gregorian."

3. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 6,11.

3.64. The Julian method provided a calendar whose length closely approximated to the tropical year. Its device of 'intercalation' was also convenient. But the basic defect was that, in taking a period of 3651/4days as the length of the tropical year, it over-estimated this length by a little more than 11 minutes 15 seconds or, more exactly, by 0.0073 days. Thus, although the error amounted only to one whole day in 128 years, it was constantly increasing, and over a long time became troublesome. This deficiency showed up in due course, so that further reform became imperative because of criticism by astronomers.

The Vatican made several unsuccessful efforts to reform the calendar. In the 16th century, after further criticism, the Vatican again made an effort to reform matters, and this time it was successful. Pope Gregory XIII approached the governments of the principal states of the Holy Roman empire, and all agreed to accept his alterations. He then promulgated a new calendar, known as the Gregorian (or New Style) calendar, in a brief issued in March 1582. It was adopted, in due course, in several other countries.

3.65. Great Britain took a long time to make the change. It was in 1751 that a Calendar (New Style) Act was passed,1 and the Gregorian calendar was there-forth ordered2 to be used for all legal and public business. In order to substitute "Gregorian", we recommend as follows:-

1. The Calendar (New Style) Act, 1751.

2. C.R. Cheuey (Ed.) Handbook of Dates for students of English History, 1945.

Section 3(35)-definition of 'month'

In section 3(35), for the word "British", the word "Gregorian" shall be substituted.

General Clauses Act, 1897 Back

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